Athletic Bilbao coach Ernesto Valverde argued his side’s injury absentees are “more decisive” than Barcelona’s ahead of the Supercopa de Espana.
Bilbao will enter the first leg of Spain’s traditional season-opener without Ander Iturraspe, Mikel Rico, Inaki Williams and Iker Muniain, while Mikel Balenziaga is struggling with a back problem.
Although Valverde remains confident Balenziaga will be fit for Friday’s match at San Mames – with the defender a chance to man-mark Lionel Messi as he did in the 2015 Copa del Rey final – Bilbao’s coach insisted his squad will be more undermanned than Luis Enrique’s visitors.
Barca will be without Jordi Alba and Neymar.
“Given the respective squads, our injuries are much more decisive, although they’d say the same thing,” Valverde said on Thursday.
Valverde confirmed using Balenziaga to follow Messi around the pitch could be an option in the Supercopa first leg, although the 51-year-old conceded Barca’s talisman is difficult to man-mark.
“We did it in the final and we watched as he beat five players and scored a goal,” he said.
“That gave them the upper hand in that game. We’ll see in these three games we have against them. It’s an option.”
Friday’s match will be the first of three in a row between Barca and Bilbao, with the two clubs set to complete the Supercopa on Monday and then clash on the opening weekend of La Liga on August 23.
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