Barcelona will look to bounce back from its first defeat of the season when the club travels to Athletic Bilbao in La Liga on Sunday. Follow GOAL.COM on Twitter
Gerardo Martino suffered his first loss as Barcelona's head coach on Tuesday, as Barca went down 2-1 at Ajax in the Champions League.
The defeat came despite Ajax being reduced to 10 men for over 40 minutes as, with the exception of Xavi’s second-half penalty, Barca was unable to find a way through the resilient defense of the host.
The Catalan club has not lost in its 14 Liga matches this season, winning 13 and drawing once, but is only three points ahead of Atletico Madrid despite an injury crisis that has seen many of its stars sidelined.
None are more notable than Lionel Messi (thigh), with the Argentina forward - who has scored 50 and 46 goals in his last two La Liga seasons - not having played since November 10.
Messi is not expected back until the new year, while first-choice goalkeeper Victor Valdes (calf) is also sidelined.
Dani Alves has missed the club's last two matches with a calf issue of his own, while left back Jordi Alba (hamstring) and midfielders Jonathan dos Santos and Isaac Cuenca (both knee) are long-term absentees.
Barca will welcome the in-form Alexis Sanchez back from suspension, though. The Chilean has scored eight goals in his last eight matches for club and country and Martino will be delighted by his return, especially given the continued absence of talisman Messi.
The corresponding fixture last season ended in a 2-2 draw in April, but Barcelona romped to a 5-1 success at Camp Nou.
Athletic has not beaten Barcelona since May 2006, when it posted a 3-1 home win, and the team would love a repeat as it battle it out with Villarreal for fourth position on the table.
Ernesto Valverde's side sits fifth, six points clear of its nearest rival, and reaching the Champions League is the aim.
A lack of goals has stunted the club's progress, though, with not one player in the squad having netted more than three goals in La Liga.
However, Athletic has not lost in its last seven Liga home games and is sure to provide Barca with a stern test.
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