MADRID: Barcelona won’t have to wait long to try to correct the errors that saw them lose the Spanish Super Cup to Athletic Bilbao as they return to San Mames on Sunday in their La Liga opener.
The European champions were thrashed 4-0 in Bilbao just a week ago as an under-manned Catalan defense failed to cope with the presence of Aritz Aduriz, who struck a hat-trick and then also netted in the return as the Basques won the final 5-1 on aggregate.
Barca coach Luis Enrique has even more defensive problems as his side looks for revenge on league duty.
Gerard Pique has been banned for four matches after being sent off in Monday’s 1-1 draw in the return leg of the Super Cup for verbally abusing the match officials.
Jordi Alba remains a doubt with a hamstring injury, while Neymar hasn’t returned to training since he was diagnosed with mumps two weeks ago.
The coach must also decide whom to play in goal. Claudio Bravo made his first appearance of the campaign in the home game against Athletic after Marc-Andre ter Stegen had been selected for the first two matches of the season in which Barca conceded eight times.
Bravo was the number one in La Liga last season, while Ter Stegen kept guard in the Copa del Rey and the Champions League.
“It would be nice for me to play in La Liga, but I don’t know if I will. It is a decision that the coach has to take. For the moment, we need to train and work hard,” said Ter Stegen.
“Pique is an important player for us, we will miss him, but we have to try and do our best without him.”
Athletic has injury problems of their own with Inaki Williams and Ander Iturraspe doubtful and they could pay physically for a busy schedule over the past week as, after a parade through Bilbao to celebrate their first trophy for 31 years, the Basques were back in action in the Europa League on Thursday away to MSK Zilina in Slovakia.