The preseason is in full swing for Athletic Club who will play their third friendly on Monday against Fenerbahce. The Lions lost against Basel and then defeated Sion in their first two matches of the Festival of the Alps and Monday’s game will close out their stay in Switzerland. Fenerbahce is a well-known club in European football and, like Athletic, are preparing for a difficult season ahead. It may only be a friendly, but the Turkish giants will be a serious test for the Basques.
Athletic comes into this game with heads held high after a dominating 2-0 victory over FC Sion on Saturday. They opened the game by earning an own goal before Raul Garcia doubled the score early in the second half. From offense to defense it was a complete effort from the Lions who are starting to look much sharper than in their opening game of the summer. Players like Inigo Cordoba and Sabin Merino have stood out over the first two matches and will be looking to continue their brilliant run as they are competing for their place in Cuco Ziganda’s squad.
Through the first two games Cuco Ziganda has found a way to give everyone at least 45 minutes of action. That being said, he is also coming closer to the point where he needs to start trimming down the squad. That could lead to some fringe players getting a last look before returning to Bilbao on Monday. Meanwhile, the Lions will face off with Dinamo Bucuresti in the first leg of their Europa League qualifier in just 10 days so the manager could elect to test a strong lineup together, especially against a club like Fenerbahce. Regardless, Aymeric Laporte left Saturday’s match early due to muscle discomfort and isn’t expected to play against the Turkish outfit.
Fenerbahce will be the toughest opponent that Athletic has faced so far this summer. They are in European competition every year and could even wind up facing the Lions down the road in the Europa League this season. On paper, they have a very strong squad comprised of stars like Robin van Persie, Martin Skrtel, Gregory van der Wiel, and Mehmet Topal. The team has gotten even better this summer with the additions of Carlos Kameni and Mathieu Valbuena. They did lose leading scorer Moussa Sow who was on loan from Al-Ahli last season, but there is still plenty of firepower to really test Athletic Club.
Both clubs are in the some boat going into Monday’s match. Their seasons will begin on 27 July in Europa League play and they only have a limited amount of time to finish preparing for the new campaign. The meeting between Athletic and Fenerbahce looks to be a very entertaining game that could be a preview of what is to come. Ziganda could choose to test a very strong eleven in order to start building cohesion. Coming off of the first win of the summer, the players are eager and excited to keep building the best form possible.