The latest episode of one of the oldest rivalries in Spanish football takes place on Sunday when Barcelona face Athletic Bilbao at Camp Nou in La Liga.
Barca have held the upperhand in meetings with the team from the Basque country but there have been many key meetings between the two sides and no shortage of controversy over the years.
|What||Barcelona v Athletic Bilbao|
|Where||Camp Nou, Barcelona|
|When||8pm, Sunday 23rd October, 2022|
|How to watch||Live on ITV4 and bet365 live stream|
|Odds||Barcelona 8/15, Athletic Bilbao 9/2, Draw|
There have been a total of 235 meetings between the two teams and they have met in nine Copa del Rey finals.
That figure includes their two-legged quarter-final in the 1976/77 UEFA Cup, when Athletic won the first leg 2-1 at San Memes and then drew the second leg 2-2. They progressed to the final where they were beaten by Italian side Juventus.
Barcelona hold the greater number of victories in the fixture with 118, while Athletic have been victorious on 78 occasions. There have been 39 draws.
Bilbao’s last league win over Barca came in August 2019 when a late goal from Aritz Aduriz was enough to give them the victory.
The last meeting at Camp Nou before Sunday’s game came in February when Barca secured a 4-0 victory with goals from Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, Ousmane Dembele, Luuk de Jong and Memphis Depay.
The biggest margin of victory in the fixture came in 1931 when, two years after the formation of La Liga, Athletic beat Barcelona 12-1.
This remains the biggest victory in Spanish top-flight history as leagues before 1929 were formed on a regional basis with Bilbao (Basque country) and Barcelona (Catalonia) dominating their local opponents.
Agustin Bata scored seven goals in that game and was the top scorer in the fixture before Lionel Messi broke his record, going on to score 29 goals against Athletic.
While the two teams had played on numerous occasions in the early years of La Liga, there was not a great deal of animosity between them.
In fact, as they saw themselves as representing two key areas of Spain, they were almost kindred spirits between Franco’s victory in the civil war which broke out in 1936 and the Nationalist leader’s death in 1975.
However, a bitter rivalry emerged in the early 1980s when both teams were challenging for honours and most of the aggravation revolved around Barca’s star player Diego Maradona.
The Argentinian joined the Catalan giants in 1982 for a world-record fee and was soon joined by manager Cesar Menotti, who had steered Argentina to glory at the 1978 World Cup.
In the meantime, Javier Clemente had developed a physical side at Athletic, who won the Spanish title in 1983, when Barcelona felt their title charge was derailed by a serious knee injury suffered by playmaker Bernd Schuster courtesy of Andoni Goikoetxea, who became known as the Butcher of Bilbao.
Barca were still searching for their first title since 1974 and Goikoetxea broke Maradona’s ankle the following September.
He was only cautioned but initially banned for 18 matches and, as Bilbao won the title by having a better head-to-head record than Real Madrid and a point more than Barcelona, it was no surprise that Barca felt aggrieved.
Then they met in the 1984 Copa del Rey final and everything came to a head.
Athletic won 1-0 and Maradona, having been goaded by Miguel Sola, launched a flying kick at him which sparked a mass brawl. It would be the Argentinian star’s final game for Barca as he was sold to Napoli later that summer.
Since then, the rivalry has been less intense as the clubs have moved in different directions.
Barcelona won their first title in ten years the following season under Terry Venables and then turned the corner under Johan Cruyff, winning their first European Cup in 1992.
While Athletic stuck with their policy of fielding only players who had come from the Basque country, Barcelona scanned the world to bring in a succession of world superstars and established themselves as one of the greatest teams in the world.
Athletic, meanwhile, often found themselves in the lower reaches of the league, although their current manager Ernesto Valverde, currently in his third spell at the club, was manager for three years at Barcelona.
They did knock Barcelona and Real Madrid out of last season’s Copa del Rey but they lost in the semi-finals to Valencia.Safer Gambling Week (17-23 October) – Let’s talk about safer gambling. Click here for more information on independent resources. Gamble Responsibly.