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Preview: Liverpool vs. Athletic Bilbao - prediction, team news, head-to-head

:Headline: Preview: Liverpool vs. Athletic Bilbao - prediction, team news, head-to-head:
Sports Mole previews Sunday's Pre-Season Friendlies clash between Liverpool and Athletic Bilbao, including predictions, team news and possible lineups.
Sports Mole

Liverpool's penultimate match of the pre-season period takes place at Anfield on Sunday afternoon, as Athletic Bilbao pay a visit to Merseyside for a friendly clash.

Jurgen Klopp's team sank Bologna in two respective hour-long friendlies on Thursday, whereas Athletic will take on Southampton on Saturday 24 hours before travelling to Merseyside.

Match preview

With a mix of first-teamers, youth products and fringe players each being handed the opportunity to impress in two 60-minute friendlies against Bologna, Klopp has plenty to ponder for the new campaign following a pair of 2-0 and 1-0 victories in France.

The 3pm kickoff saw Diogo Jota and Sadio Mane put the Reds two goals to the good before the 15-minute mark in a comfortable 2-0 win, and two hours later, a new-look Liverpool side also notched up a 14th-minute goal through Takumi Minamino before Divock Origi failed to convert from 12 yards.

Klopp only had positive things to say about his side's performances as they quickly bounced back from an action-packed 4-3 loss to Hertha Berlin, and the Reds boss soon turned his attention to the weekend, where he is expecting the "biggest atmosphere" at Anfield for the past 18 months.

All has been relatively quiet on the transfer front at Liverpool, but Klopp has a plethora of out-of-favour players seeking two final opportunities to impress, as the Reds will round off their pre-season against Osasuna the day after their battle with Athletic.

By the time they step out onto the Anfield turf, Athletic Bilbao would have either been buoyed by a confidence-boosting success over Southampton or trying to pick themselves up from a dampening result at St Mary's.

As is the case with Liverpool, Marcelino's men are also rounding off their pre-season period with two friendlies in the space of two days, and it has been a mixed bag for the Copa del Rey runners-up so far in terms of results.

Sandwiched in between defeats to St Gallen and Union Berlin were hard-fought successes over Dynamo Kiev and Borussia Dortmund, and with Barcelona lying in wait for Athletic in gameweek two of the new La Liga season, a positive end to their pre-season campaign is a must.

Athletic can look forward to a friendlier fixture against Elche to kick off their La Liga campaign on August 16, however, and Marcelino's side will endeavour to make their trip to England a memorable one to round off a topsy-turvy pre-season period.

Liverpool Pre-Season Friendlies form:
  • W
  • L
  • W
  • W

Athletic Bilbao Pre-Season Friendlies form:
  • L
  • W
  • L
  • W
  • L

Team News

Liverpool may not be playing two matches in the space of an hour this weekend, but the 24-hour gap in between games means that Klopp is sure to split his team into two once more.

It is impossible to predict which XI will turn out against Athletic, but Klopp has confirmed that Jordan Henderson is more likely to earn some minutes in the Osasuna game, while Virgil van Dijk and Joe Gomez both enjoyed valuable game time against Bologna.

However, Thiago Alcantara was not available for either friendly with the Serie A outfit due to a minor injury, and the Spaniard is expected to make a return to full training next week.

Similarly, Athletic will also split their squad into two different teams with Saturday's friendly against Southampton also on the agenda, and they remain without Unai Simon as he seeks gold medal glory with Spain at the Olympics.

Iker Muniain and Yeray Alvarez have both battled back from discomfort to make themselves available, while Inigo Martinez and Alex Petxarroman were also pictured in an open training session with fans present.

Inaki Williams - once linked with Liverpool - is also set to form part of the travelling party, while Yuri Berchiche continues the long road back to recovery from surgery.

Head To Head

Liverpool and Athletic Bilbao have locked horns four times competitively down the years, the most recent of which came in the last 16 of the 1983-84 European Cup, where an Ian Rush winner saw Liverpool progress on aggregate after a goalless draw in the first leg.

The two clubs first locked horns in the 1968-69 Inter-Cities Fairs Cup and could not be separated after a 3-3 draw over two legs, which led to the Spanish side progressing via coin toss.

Klopp did also oversee a 3-1 friendly win for the Reds over Athletic as recently as 2017, during which Roberto Firmino, Ben Woodburn and Dominic Solanke found the net.

We say: Liverpool 2-1 Athletic Bilbao

With both managers plotting how best to navigate their sides through two games in such quick succession, it would take a brave soul to confidently predict the outcome of this affair.

However, both Reds outfits looked strong against Bologna and are seeing some integral cogs continue to build up their match fitness, so we still expect Liverpool to prevail by the narrowest of margins.

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