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Neymar will play in an unfamiliar role on this occasion..

Athletic Bilbao v Barcelona: 3 things that could shape Copa del Rey quarter final

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Just three days after losing 6-0 at Camp Nou, Athletic Bilbao receive Barcelona at the new San Mames Stadium for a Copa del Rey quarter final that is sure to be much different to the league game.

For a start, Barca are missing two of their most important players and two defenders are injured.

It weakens the Catalans immeasurably and with Aritz Arduriz returning to the squad, Athletic are arguably stronger in attack than they were on Sunday.

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With a full house roaring them on, the hosts will seek to gain an advantage to take back to Camp Nou next week. 

A result and performance similar to that in the Spanish Super Cup will certainly put Los Leones in the box seat for a semi-final berth so let's take a look at three things that could affect the outcome of this one.

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Gonzalez Gonzalez

It's a very strange choice of referee as Luis Enrique was quick to point out in his pre-match press conference.

Senor Gonzalez Gonzalez was in charge of the Espanyol match when Barca's players were being kicked from pillar to post and yet the official appeared relaxed and unwilling to sanction the Periquitos.

Athletic aren't a dirty team but they'll certainly use their physicality when required, and if it seems that they're getting away with some slightly over-the-top tackling, the hosts will use that to unsettle their visitors.

Enrique will want protection for his players. Will he get it though with this particular referee in charge?

Real CD Espanyol v FC Barcelona - La Liga

No Messi, Suarez, Alba, Mathieu

Barca go into this first leg missing some vital components in their machine.

Luis Suarez was ruled out after being banned for allegedly inciting a tunnel confrontation with Espanyol players in the last round.

Lionel Messi was taken off at half time in the league game against Athletic and whilst the Argentinian has allegedly only felt "slight discomfort" in a hamstring, the Catalans are not taking any chances.

Jordi Alba will miss this game and probably the return after tweaking a hamstring in the same league match, and his replacement Jeremy Mathieu has been injured for a while now.

It leaves Luis Enrique with a genuine predicament.

FBL-ESP-CUP-BARCELONA-ELCHE

Williams the danger man

All eyes will be on Athletic's wonderkid Inaki Williams. The speedster is offered encouragement by Jordi Alba's withdrawal from proceedings.

Enrique is unlikely to plump for an unfit and out of form Adriano Correia as his replacement, leaving Sergi Roberto to fill in, in an unfamiliar role.

He certainly doesn't have the pace to keep up with Williams and if the winger doesn't make in roads himself, then he's certainly capable of supplying the bullets for Aduriz to fire home.

Expect much of Athletic's forward play to come down Barca's left side.

FBL-EUR-C3-ATHLETIC-PARTIZAN

What will be the outcome of this one? Have YOUR say in the comment box below!

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Topics:
Neymar
Athletic Bilbao
La Liga
Football
Lionel Messi
Luis Suarez
Barcelona

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