Athletic Bilbao v Barcelona: 3 things that will decide the result

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Athletic Club de Bilbao against Barcelona is one of the all-time great La Liga clashes.

Two sets of fans (Basque/Catalan) that share a sense of brotherhood, given a desire to be independent from Spanish rule, will provide the requisite atmosphere at the New San Mames.

The state of the art ground has become a millstone around the clubs' necks and although Barca have yet to win there, three points are a must to keep them in the title hunt.

Let's take a look at three things that could shape the outcome to this one.

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Ernesto Valverde will point to his Bilbao side being unbeaten at home in the last two fixtures as a sign of improvement from the team.

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But the fact remains that the new San Mames is nothing like the fortress of the old "cathedral."

Both Elche and Cordoba have won there, as have many others and although Barca remain one of the teams yet to conquer the ground, they will fancy their chances if Athletic's poor form continues.

Only Atletico Madrid from La Liga's "big boys" have played there this season, and the Rojiblancos strolled to a 4-1 away victory.

Valverde will need top-level performances from all of his players to ensure that the Catalans don't walk away in a similar vein.

Messi to break another record?

Lionel Messi generally seems to care little for individual honours. 

However, thanks to his astonishing prowess, records tumble at his feet. And another is just around the corner.

Already with the La Liga all-time goals record in his locker, Messi is now just two assists away from taking that all-time record from Luis Figo.

With Neymar and Luis Suarez both in a rich vein of form themselves, Messi has already enjoyed a fruitful 2015. Don't bet against that continuing here.

Laporte in shop window?

No doubt about it. Aymeric Laporte is a wanted man.

Despite his tender years, the youngster remains one of the most consummate central defenders in La Liga.

His credentials will be given a rigourous examination by Barca's triple attacking threat, but should he come through relatively unscathed, his transfer value can only be enhanced.

This match represents a chance for the wider footballing family to see just what all of the fuss is about and Laporte is unlikely to disappoint.

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La Liga
Lionel Messi
Luis Suarez
Athletic Bilbao

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