Monday’s 3-1 win over Villarreal was the best game that Athletic Club had played all year. From every aspect it was a masterful performance and left fans with a lot to be happy about. Iñigo Córdoba scored his debut goal for the first team, Iñaki Williams scored and gave an assist, and Iker Muniain made his return after a six month absence due to a torn ACL to score a late goal and seal the victory. However, looking ahead there was something negative that came out of the match that manager Kuko Ziganda is going to have to work around.
Midfielder Ander Iturraspe and defender Unai Nuñez both picked up yellow cards which means they will be suspended for this Saturday’s home game against Deportivo La Coruña. Both players have been important parts of the team over the last few months and replacing them will be vital to the Lions being able to string together two consecutive victories.
Iturraspe’s absence opens the door for Ziganda to switch things up in the midfield. Lately he has played the 29-year-old alongside Mikel San José, creating a double pivot heavily focused on defending. That won’t be the case on Saturday as Beñat and Mikel Rico are likely the two main choices to stand in. Mikel Vesga could also deputize, but he has barely played lately and has not been in good form. Beñat has plenty of experience playing alongside San José so that option may make the most sense, but Rico has had an absolutely fantastic campaign and is finally healthy once again.
Replacing Nuñez looks simple at first glance, but a lot depends on training this week. Naturally, Yeray would be the easy choice to jump back into the starting lineup but the 23-year-old has missed the last three games with a muscle injury and it isn’t certain that he will be available. He has been doing the bulk of training sessions and Ziganda seems hopeful that he can play, but it isn’t a guarantee. If Yeray isn’t cleared that would leave Xabi Etxeita as the last man standing. Losing both Iturraspe and Nuñez is something that Ziganda can work around, but with only seven games left on the calendar the manager will wish that he had everyone available.