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Zenit sign Bart Simpson

The Toe Poke 13 hours ago
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Apr 26, 2013

Strong Barcelona look to clinch title

Barcelona coach Tito Vilanova is set to name a strong side for Saturday's trip to Athletic Bilbao as he looks to wrap up the La Liga title before next week's Champions League semi-final second leg against Bayern Munich.

If Barca win at San Mames and Real Madrid slip up in their derby at Atletico Madrid later the same evening, Vilanova's side will regain the title won from them by Jose Mourinho's side last season.

Reports from the Barcelona camp suggest Vilanova is keen to secure this extra boost ahead of Wednesday's attempt to overturn a 4-0 semi-final first leg deficit against Bayern at the Camp Nou, meaning changes will be kept to a minimum.

Cesc Fabregas will come in if it is decided that Lionel Messi should not start, while Thiago Alcantara and Cristian Tello are other options for Vilanova to freshen up his side.

Barca's final visit to the old San Mames is likely to be a muted affair given Athletic's disappointing season.

Marcelo Bielsa's side thrilled neutrals throughout Europe last term but are now 14th in the Primera Division, with no hope of European qualification and few fears of relegation.

Bielsa, who may bring back fit-again top scorer Aritz Aduriz in place of Fernando Llorente, told reporters on Thursday that he still considered this a big game for many reasons.

"Beating Barcelona is never irrelevant for a team like Athletic," he said. "We have many needs, given the circumstances of the team."

The Argentine coach, nicknamed 'El Loco', said talk about eras coming to a close after Barca's heavy defeat in Germany was overblown, adding: "It is very difficult for a team like to Barca to keep evolving, but it seems unjust to ignore their previous achievements.

"We should leave the opinions until after the second leg. Even then, if they do not reach the final, we should consider all they have done recently, winning La Liga with crushing superiority and knocking out Milan and Paris Saint-Germain."

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