Athletic Bilbao is one of the trio of clubs never to have been relegated from the top tier of Spanish football and since the creation of La Liga in 1929 has won the title eight times.
FC Barcelona vs Athletic Bilbao fixtures can often be quite physical matches but there is also a certain amount of respect between the two clubs.
About Athletic Bilbao
The origins of Athletic Bilbao can be traced back to the end of the nineteenth century when a number of Basques, introduced to football while studying in Britain, formed Athletic Club (note the English spelling) after returning home. Around the same time expat British dockyard workers formed Bilbao FC and initially the two teams organised matches against each other.
Recent & forthcoming FC Barcelona vs Athletic Bilbao fixtures
The two clubs formed Club Bizcaya specifically to compete in the 1902 Copa del Rey, which they won and, in 1903 the two teams merged into Athletic Club, although the club is widely referred to as Athletic Bilbao.
Early on the club played in the same blue and white colours as Blackburn Rovers, but switched to the red and white striped shirt of Southampton FC in the same way as Atletico Madrid (which was originally set up as an associate club of Athletic Bilbao), the red and white matching the colours of Bilbao.
During the Franco years the name of the club was changed to Atlético Bilbao after a decree was issued banning the use of non-Spanish names, reverting to the English spelling in the 1970s after Franco’s death.
With a policy of nurturing and recruiting Basque players the club has widespread support throughout the Basque Country for the same reasons FC Barcelona is supported throughout Catalonia. However, while the strictly Basque-born policy was relaxed in the post-Spanish Civil War era in favour of the “grandfather rule”, since the 1990s the club has adopted the policy of allowing players of any nationality into the team provided they acquired their skills in the Basque country.
Despite never having been relegated, Athletic Bilbao had to fight hard to remain in the first division during the 2005-2006 and 2006-2007 seasons. Despite not having won the Spanish League title since 1984 the club was runner up in the 2012 UEFA Europa League final, although in La Liga they finished the season in the number twelfth spot.
San Mamés stadium
Athletic Bilbao plays in the new San Mamés stadium, a UEFA Elite stadium built adjacent to the original San Memés stadium on land occupied until 2003 by the Bilbao International Trade Fair. After being approved in 2006, construction commenced in 2010 and the stadium was was inaugurated in September 2013.
The stadium cost a total of €211 million, with more than half being provided by the councils of Bilbao and Biscay province.