Mikel Balenziaga is one of the best defender in La Liga. That is what manager Ernesto Valverde said about the 29-year-old in a recent interview. It’s clear that the left-back is vital to Athletic’s style of play and has been one of the most consistent players in the team over the last few years. With a huge game against Eibar looming, the Lions will need their best players. However, there is a chance that Balenziaga could miss this Basque Derby.
The left-back exited Friday’s match against Las Palmas before the hour mark with pain in his left thigh. In the postgame press conference Valverde did not seem too worried about Balenziaga, saying that it was more of a precautionary move than anything else. The team then had Saturday and Sunday off to rest before returning to training on Monday. Despite it being a few days since the match, Balenziaga did not train with his teammates.
Honestly, it is too early to jump to conclusions right now. Valverde could have just given the left-back a break in order to truly protect him; or Balenziaga may have really not been able to train at all. Thankfully, Athletic do not play this coming weekend because they have been scheduled to face off with Eibar on Monday night. With a few extra days Balenziaga may be able to recover in time for the Derby.
For now there is no word on how serious the injury may be. There is a press conference schedule for Tuesday after training and new information may be released at that point. If Balenziaga is not able to play against Eibar, Valverde could replace him with Enric Saborit or Inigo Lekue. The Lions currently hold a three point lead over Eibar in the league table and have the tiebreaker, making Monday’s clash one of the biggest games of the season.