Previewing Athletic Club vs Huesca
After pulling off a thrilling 2-1 stoppage time win over Leganés to start the season Athletic Club will now turn their attention to newly promoted Huesca. The Lions will be looking to build on their momentum as they welcome their rivals to the San Mamés which will also see the return of Xabi Etxeita who is away on loan. It won’t be an easy game for the Basques, but there will be high expectations.
The two clubs have never met in a competitive match but they did play a friendly back in 2016 that ended in a 1-1 draw. This will be the first time Huesca has ever come to the San Mamés which has historically not ended well for visiting clubs. Still, they have already proven to be a confident team that hope to be up for the challenge. After a disappointing season under Kuko Ziganda, Eduardo Berizzo wants to turn the Cathedral back into a fortress.
Both clubs are coming off of emotional opening wins to start the season. Huesca defeated Eibar 2-1 to earn their first ever victory in the Primera while Iker Muniain scored a stoppage time winner against Leganés last Monday. On paper this is a game that Athletic will be expected to control, but Huesca are eager to earn more points and are playing with full belief and intensity. As Berizzo stated in his pregame press conference, the key to victory will be patience and persistence.
Athletic Club will be without a few key players with Aritz Aduriz and Iago Herrerín missing due to injury and Alex Remiro still unable to play until his contract situation has been resolved. Monday night could see the return of Iñigo Martinez, although Berizzo has admitted that he would like to see the defender get more training sessions under his belt before facing real competition.
The biggest issue facing Athletic will be replacing Aduriz in attack. Berizzo has several options to choose from in Iñaki Williams, Gorka Guruzeta, Raúl García, and Sabin Merino but he refused to tip his hand during Sunday’s press conference. Regardless of who starts the team will look different without the striker leading the attack. In the meantime, Unai Simón is expected to start in goal once again.
As far as positional battles are concerned, Yuri Berchiche will have his hands full with Huesca winger Álex Gallar who scored two goals in the opening game against Eibar. The 26-year-old can be very dangerous and with Huesca preferring to attack down their right wing the Lions will have to be prepared to cover counter attacks which have the potential to be problematic.
At the other end, if Athletic are able to be patient in attack they will get good chances in front of goal. Huesca have the tendency to lose possession at times which the Lions can capitalize on with their intense, pressing style of football. The visitors have also struggled to deal with set pieces at times which could lead to scoring opportunities with players like Markel Susaeta putting in good crosses.
Truth be told it is very difficult to predict what will happen in Monday’s match. With Huesca being new to the Primera anything can happen, especially with Athletic missing a vital component in Aduriz. Still, this is a game that the Lions will be expected to win and Berizzo will undoubtedly have his team prepared for a demanding match at the San Mamés. Like with any game in La Liga it won’t be easy, but the Basques have the opportunity to build on their strong start to the season.
Projected Athletic Club XI: Unai Simón, Oscar De Marcos, Yeray, Peru Nolaskoain, Yuri Berchiche, Dani García, Iker Muniain, Unai López, Iñigo Córdoba, Iñaki Williams, Markel Susaeta