Athletic Club and Real Sociedad fans have had a lot in common this year. Both sides have seen their clubs put in a disappointing season, both have seen a key player leave the team, and now both are gearing up for what will be a dramatic Basque Derby. With only three points separating the two clubs and not much else left to play for, Saturday’s match at the Anoeta is going to be all about pride and bragging rights. The energy and environment will be turned up and the Lions must come ready for a fight. Unfortunately, they will have to do so without one of their best players.
Aritz Aduriz was injured in training last Tuesday and, although it didn’t seem serious, he missed out on Monday’s clash with Levante. As the days passed the striker continued to miss training which brought even more worry. During Friday’s pregame press conference, manager Kuko Ziganda confirmed that the 37-year-old was ruled out of the Basque Derby as he is still nursing his muscle injury.
With Aduriz sidelined for the second game in a row all eyes will be on Iñaki Williams who seems to have taken the mantel as the starting striker. It will be up to the 23-year-old to lead the offense in front of a hostile Anoeta crowd that have more than one reason to turn up for this game. Saturday will also be the first time that Iñigo Martinez, who left Real Sociedad in January to join Athletic, will play in front of his former fans. Rumors have been circulating about how they are going to welcome back the defender and it surely won’t be in a good way.
Despite the fact that Iñaki has been starting over Aduriz lately, not having the 37-year-old on the bench is a terrible thing for an Athletic team who have struggled to score goals this season. Aside from Iñaki, Raúl García will be the other focal point of the attack and will likely be flanked by Markel Susaeta and Iñigo Córdoba. Fans are still hoping to see Iker Muniain listed in the starting lineup, but the winger just doesn’t have the fitness for that after just coming back from an ACL tear that sidelined him for six months. The Lions know that they are walking into a fight on Saturday and that means that they have to be ready to match the intensity of their neighbors.