Athletic Club finished up their La Liga campaign last weekend with a loss against Atletico Madrid in the final game ever at the Vicente Calderon. Due to other results across Spain, the Lions officially finished seventh in the league table. Having qualified for European competition for three straight years, the Basques then needed Barcelona to win the Copa del Rey against Alaves to make it four consecutive. Luckily for Athletic, they got their wish.
Barcelona defeated Alaves 3-1 at the Vicente Calderon on Saturday to lift the Copa del Rey and send Athletic Club to the qualifying rounds for next season’s Europa League.
For Athletic, this means that they will begin their season on 27 July in the first leg of the qualifying match. The return leg will take place on 3 August. The next round will take place on 17 and 24 August and the winner will then be placed in the group stages of the tournament. According to rumors around Bilbao, Athletic will begin preseason training on 3 July. There is a bit of a complication, however, with Kepa Arrizabalaga, Yeray, and Inaki Williams scheduled to compete with Spain’s U21 side this summer. Most likely they will be called back to Bilbao early to help the Lions advance to the group stage.
There is one more interesting factor in this scheduling. New manager Kuko Ziganda will now coach his very first game for the Lions in a European qualifier match which, interestingly enough, is exactly what he did in his first ever season in charge of Osasuna back in 2006. This also means that the Basques will likely try to take care of all of the transfer business as early as possible to ensure their squad is set before the end of July. Athletic Club hasn’t qualified for Europe for four straight years since 1982-1986.