The Catalans head into the encounter off the back of a 5-4 victory over Sevilla in the European Super Cup final on Tuesday, winning in extra-time after uncharacteristically letting slip a 4-1 lead in normal time.
It was a gruelling night for Barca in the end as they were pegged back by an energetic Sevilla, and there is no doubt they head into Friday’s clash a little worse for wear.
The back five against Sevilla were poor as a collective unit defensive, allowing far too many crosses into the box and slack marking almost cost them dear in the end.
Jordi Alba is injured, there Adriano must start at left-back on Friday as he has the pace to track Bilbao’s quick wide men and also pose a threat going forward.
The Basque outfit rely heavily on the aerial threat of Aritz Aduriz – the 34-year-old scored 18 La Liga goals last season and averaged 5.9 aerial duel winners per match.
Gerard Pique should keep his spot, and Luis Enrique ought to place Marc Bartra alongside him due to the Spaniard’s height and aerial ability in order to counter Bilbao’s main weapon.
Fitness providing, Barca should line-up with trusty trio Sergio Busquets, Ivan Rakitic and Andres Iniesta as they provide great balance, sound protection for the defence and plenty of attacking intent too.
Iniesta’s withdrawal last night coincided with his side’s collapse in the final 20 minutes, with his successor Sergi Roberto struggling to help his side maintain their rhythm.
Rafinha is also an option in the middle, but the attacking midfielder looked tired towards the end and Luis Enrique should consider holding him back until the return leg on Monday.
Neymar’s absence prompts a problem, especially if Pedro is sold to Manchester United. Reports in the Mirror claim he’s ready to move on, though the club are adamant they want him to stay.
If the Spain international remains, he must start on Friday with his winning goal against Sevilla a real morale-booster. Barcelona need to show him how much they want him to stay.
However, if Pedro is sold before then or rested to avoid injury, then Sandro should get the nod over Rafinha as Enrique needs to rotate accordingly with both legs of the final to be played over four days.
Sandro, 20, proved last season he is a goal threat and his energy at San Mames could be important as the hosts will look to pile the pressure on Barca in-front of a buoyant crowd.