FC Barcelona Opens La Liga Season vs. Athletic Bilbao; Will Lionel Messi Play?

Lionel Messi of FC Barcelona

Getty Lionel Messi of FC Barcelona looks on during the La Liga match between Sevilla FC and FC Barcelona at Estadio Ramon Sanchez Pizjuan on February 23, 2019 in Seville, Spain.

A new La Liga season starts with Barcelona visiting Athletic Bilbao at Estadio de San Mamés on Friday at 3:00 PM ET. Lionel Messi is questionable for Barça but they’re still heavy favorites to come out on top.

Athletic Bilbao Did Not Improve Their Team

Athletic Bilbao has not signed new players yet. The team’s only additions were the return of players that were on loan and the promotion of talent from their youth academy. This is a team that wants to fight for a spot in the UEFA Europa League next season and Iturraspe, Mikel Rico and Susaeta are all gone so they have until the end of the month to find a way to strengthen their roster.

Athletic Bilbao’s preseason results were mixed, they had decent showings against Borussia Mönchengladbach, West Ham United and Roma but they struggled against Paderborn, Numancia and Racing de Santander.

Will Neymar Come Back?

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Barça added Antoine Griezmann, Frenkie de Jong and Junior Firpo but the big question is, will they get Neymar? Sam Marsden and Moises Llorens of ESPN FC reported that the team offered €100 million, Philippe Coutinho and Ivan Rakitic for Neymar last Tuesday and it remains to be seen if Paris Saint-Germain accepts their proposal.

Neymar wants to join FC Barcelona but PSG initially avoided selling him to them and Real Madrid is also after the Brazilian striker.

Lionel Messi is still recovering from a calf injury suffered during a training session on August 5 and his status for Friday is up in the air. Messi missed Barça’s preseason tour to the United States and head coach Ernesto Valverde said it was hard to see Messi returning from injury against Athletic Bilbao.

Athletic Bilbao has not beaten FC Barcelona at home since 2013, registering four wins and a draw. Can the home team get at least a draw like last year? Playing at San Mamés is difficult for anyone, especially to open a new season but in the end, Barça has 10 straight opening day wins and just too many weapons on offense, even if Messi is out and they should prevail in a close, low-scoring affair.

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