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Fans backlash awaits Barcelona on return to Camp Nou

Saturday, 19 April 2014 - 2:00pm IST | Agency: IANS

Madrid: FC Barcelona face a trial by their supporters when they entertain Athletic Club Bilbao in the Camp Nou Stadium Sunday night.

Wednesday's defeat in the final of the Kings Cup to Real Madrid means that Barca have lost three games in a row and now face the prospect of ending the season with no title other than the Spanish Supercup, which they won last August, reports Xinhua.

Now the search is on to find those responsible for such a disappointing campaign.

A poll carried out in the pro-Barca newspaper, El Mundo Deportivo, shows that almost half of the supporters (48 percent) believe the current board of directors and the club, led by president, Josep Maria Bartomeu, are to blame, while 24 percent blame the players and 17 percent hold coach, Gerardo 'Tata' Martino responsible.

Some fans even waited at Barcelona airport to boo the players as they returned home following their Cup defeat, which points to a 'difficult' atmosphere in the Camp Nou Sunday.

As if problems with tired legs, morale and a possibly hostile atmosphere were not enough, Martino also has to deal with a long list of absentees, as Neymar and Jordi Alba picked up injuries Wednesday which could keep them out until the end of the season.

Alba has a hamstring strain, Neymar a foot injury and Marc Bartra could also miss out with a hamstring problem. With Gerard Pique already sidelined and Carles Puyol struggling with his knee, Barca could once again be forced to play Alex Song in central defence alongside Javier Mascherano.

Pedro Rodriguez and Alexis Sanchez can occupy wide positions, while much attention will also be fixed on Lionel Messi, who has spent the past three games struggling for form and possibly fitness.

Given the circumstances Athletic Club are one of the toughest rivals Barca could have to face.

Ernesto Valverde's side travel to Barcelona fourth in the table and although they have their own injury issues with Ibai Gomez, Carlos Gurpegui, Kike Sola and Mikel Rico set to miss out, striker Ariz Aduiz is enjoying his best ever season with 15 goals, while midfielders Ander Herrera, Ander Iturraspe have shown they have what it takes to dominate a midfield as powerful as Barca's.

Athletic were the first team to defeat Barca this season in the BBVA Primera Liga, should they be able to win in the Camp Nou for the first time in 10 years the crisis in Catalonia could assume epic proportions.

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