Athletic Club will be playing their fifth friendly of the summer on Saturday when they face off with Segunda side Real Valladolid. This will be the first preseason game against a Spanish club so the Lions will finally be in a comfortable venue. It will also be the last game before next week’s Europa League clash with Dinamo Bucuresti so it will serve as a final tune up session. Having just played the day before, Cuco Ziganda will have to be creative with his lineup selections.
Athletic comes into the game on a really high note. The Lions just defeated Club Brugge 2-0 on Friday, which was the their third consecutive clean sheet. The defense has been playing at a very high level and the players have said that it has been a major focal point of preseason training. In fact, Athletic has not conceded a single goal while at full strength. The only goals that have been allowed came in the 3-2 loss to FC Basel after Mikel Balenziaga was sent off. With Dinamo Bucuresti looming next Thursday, the Basques want to keep their spirits high with a great showing against Valladolid.
Predicting the starting lineup will be nearly impossible. The Lions played Club Brugge just one day before they will face off with Valladolid so it is very likely that Ziganda will choose an entirely new lineup. Players like Mikel San Jose, Ager Aketxe, Unai Nunez, Ander Iturraspe, Inigo Cordoba, and Asier Villalibre all missed out on the call and are expected to feature in Saturday’s match. Still, with this being the final game before seeing Dinamo next week, the manager could decide to continue strengthening some aspects of the team.
Athletic has a very good relationship with Real Valladolid which is one reason why this friendly was scheduled, Players like Kepa Arrizabalaga and Markel Etxeberria have spent time at the club on loan which which has seen relations between the two grow immensely over the last few years. Saturday’s match will be just as much of a celebration between two close clubs as it will be a friendly to prepare for the new season. Valladolid are hoping to make a strong push for promotion back to the Primera and have taken steps in order to improve the team. They have signed Barcelona keeper Jordi Masip as well as Pablo Hervias from Eibar, hoping that the pair will be major contributors this season.
Real Valladolid will arguably be the easiest team on Athletic’s calendar so far, but the match will give several players another opportunity to make their case for the first team squad. It is expected that a handful of young starlets will play heavy minutes and they need to take advantage of this chance. Of course, results mean very little in preseason matches, but the Lions want to continue building confidence heading into next week’s Europa League clash with Dinamo Bucuresti.
Athletic Club Projected XI: Unai Simon, Inigo Lekue, Unai Nunez, Eneko Boveda, Enric Saborit, Mikel San Jose, Ander Iturraspe, Inigo Cordoba, Ager Aketxe, Sabin Merino, Asier Villalibre