Iker Muniain Could Return To The Starting Lineup This Weekend With Raúl García Suspended
Iker Muniain’s story has been one of the bright, gleaming lights in an otherwise disappointing season for Athletic Club. The Lezama product suffered a torn ACL back in late September but worked hard to come back before the campaign was over. A few weeks ago he returned to the field, coming on as a substitute and scoring a decisive goal against Villarreal, but due to missing six months of action it is understandable that he hasn’t featured in the starting lineup. That could finally change this weekend.
During Athletic’s 3-1 loss to Real Sociedad on Saturday both Raúl García and Oscar De Marcos were shown yellow cards and will now be suspended for the club’s next match. With García not able to feature, Muniain could finally be put back in the starting lineup to play in the attacking midfielder role. The decision will ultimately be up to manager Kuko Ziganda who must weigh up Muniain’s fitness and determine whether or not the 25-year-old is ready to play significant minutes once again.
If Muniain does not get the start in place of Raúl García there are a few other options, but not ones that would give fans as much optimism. Beñat could feature in the role as he has done at times this season, but the midfielder has shown that he lacks the pace to play the position fully. Markel Susaeta could also step in, but even in the rare occasions that he has played centrally the Captain tends to drift wide which leaves gaps in the center of the field. Muniain definitely isn’t the only one who can play the position, but no one will argue that he is by far the best option. It will all come down to his fitness and endurance level now.
Saturday’s match against Real Betis will be an interesting one. The Lions will be hosting at the San Mamés which hasn’t been the fortress this year that it usually is. At the same time the Basques are in no danger of facing relegation, yet also find themselves out of the race for European qualification. Normally this would be a great time to let some young players get minutes in the first team, but with Bilbao Athletic in the midst of a battle for promotion that would be a terrible idea. Regardless, the Athletic players continue to say that they want to finish the season as strong as possible to give the fans something to be happy about going into the summer.