Ernesto Valverde is in for a poignant homecoming on Saturday as the Barcelona coach takes his new side to the Basque Country to face Athletic.
Athletic, however, are never an easy prospect in San Mames, and in spite of an underwhelming start to the season this weekend's clash should be a blockbuster for fans.
|Game||Athletic Club vs Barcelona|
|Date||Saturday, October 28|
|Time||19:45 BST / 14:45 ET|
TV CHANNEL & LIVE STREAM
In the UK, the match will be available to watch live on television on Sky Sports Football or by stream via Sky Go.
|UK TV channel||Online stream|
|Sky Sports Football||Sky Go / dabblebet|
In the US, the match will be available to watch live on television on beIN Sports and by stream via beIN Sports Connect.
|US TV channel||Online stream|
|beIN Sports||beIN Sports Connect|
SQUADS & TEAM NEWS
|Defenders||Boveda, Saborit, Laporte, Lekue, Etxaita, Nunez|
|Midfielders||Benat, San Jose, Iturraspe, Susaeta, Rico, Vesga, Garcia, Aketxe, Cordoba|
|Forwards||Williams, Merino, Aduriz|
The Basque side continue to struggle with the absence of Iker Muniain, who suffered a cruciate ligament tear in September and is expected to miss at least six months of action.
Oscar De Marcos and Mikel Balenziaga also miss out for the hosts, who will be back in action in the Europa League midweek.
Potential starting XI: Kepa; Lekue, Unai Nunez, Laporte, Saborit; Iturraspe, San Jose; Williams, Raul García, Cordoba; Aduriz..
|Goalkeepers||Ter Stegen, Cillessen|
|Defenders||Semedo, Pique, Mascherano, Digne, Umtiti, David Costas, Alba|
|Midfielders||Rakitic, S. Busquets, O. Busquets, D. Suarez, Paulinho, Roberto, Gomes|
|Forwards||L. Suarez, Messi, Alcacer, Deulofeu|
Barca have a few long-term injury issues in the squad. Ousmane Dembele continues on the sidelines and is not expected to be back before the new year, while Rafinha has gone under the knife for a knee problem.
Arda Turan and Aleix Vidal are carrying minor niggles and miss the trip, along with Andres Iniesta, but Valverde can nevertheless field a strong squad in a game he will be itching to win in his old stamping ground.
The likes of Lionel Messi and Luis Suarez, meanwhile, enjoyed a rare midweek off as Barca rotated for the Copa del Rey, and will be raring to go as they return to the starting line-up this weekend.
Potential starting XI: Ter Stegen; Semedo, Pique, Umtiti, Jordi Alba; Busquets, Paulinho, Rakitic; Deulofeu, Messi, Suarez..
BETTING & MATCH ODDS
Barcelona are 4/9 favourites to win, according to dabblebet , with Malaga priced at 11/2 and the draw available at 15/4.
After the Supercopa debacle that marked Ernesto Valverde's first games in charge at Camp Nou, even he must have been surprised by the imperious form that followed.
Barcelona have won eight and drawn one of their nine games to date in La Liga, adding for good measure three consecutive Champions League wins for a near-perfect start to the season.
Midweek it was the kids' turn to shine with victory in the Copa del Rey over Murcia, but on Saturday the likes of Lionel Messi and Luis Suarez will return in a special game for Valverde.
It was, after all, four years of sterling service at Athletic that helped seal Valverde's appointment as successor to Luis Enrique, and the coach is guaranteed a warm welcome when he walks out at San Mames on Saturday.
Valverde, however, will not be fooled by the formbook ahead of this clash. Athletic may have under-performed so far under Jose Ziganda, currently sitting 11th with just three wins in nine, but the Basques can never be taken lightly.