Kuko Ziganda had a difficult decision to make going into Saturday’s match against Deportivo La Coruña. Center-back Unai Nuñez was suspended for the game due to yellow card accumulation and Yeray had only just received medical clearance to play again. All signs pointed to Xabi Etxeita featuring in the starting lineup but the defender has not played his best this season. As expected, Etxeita was named as a starter but was not able to last the entire match after picking up an injury in the first half.
While challenging for a header, Etxeita fell awkwardly on his right leg and was holding his knee in pain. Unable to stand the medical team rushed onto the pitch, bringing a stretcher with them. After a few minutes the defender was able to get to his feet, with the help of the medical team, and walk off the pitch under his own strength. He eventually made his way back on the field but it was clear that he was in some pain.
At halftime Yeray was substituted into the game with Etxeita being removed. After the game Athletic announced that Etxeita had suffered trauma in his right knee, although they did not give any specifics as to what the injury actually is. The 30-year-old will now undergo tests to determine the severity of the injury, but the fact that he was able to continue playing suggests that it is likely nothing serious. Still, with Nuñez back from suspension and Yeray finally healthy, the Lions should be able to get by if Etxeita is ruled out for an extended period of time.
Athletic Club will be back in action on Wednesday when they will travel to the Santiago Bernabéu to take on Real Madrid. The Lions now find themselves eight points off of the final European qualification spot in the La Liga table with only six games left to play. Their quest for Europe took a major blow with Saturday’s loss, but the players remain adamant that they won’t give up the fight. Wednesday’s match in Madrid definitely won’t be easy, but it is a must win for the Basque giants.