Previewing Eibar vs Athletic Club
Athletic have had a disappointing start to the season but the club is hoping that will all change on Sunday when they travel to Ipurua to take on Eibar in the second consecutive Basque Derby. The team has had the entire international break to prepare for the game and Eduardo Berizzo has stated that adjustments have been made. The Lions will be looking to restart their season, in a way, but it won’t be an easy game by any stretch.
Since earning promotion to La Liga, Eibar have struggled against Athletic. In fact, they have only beaten the Lions once and that game came back in August of 2015 at Ipurua. Athletic have won the previous two meetings on the road, and four of the last five altogether. Aritz Aduriz also has a rich history against Eibar, scoring five goals in nine games against the Armeros.
Eibar come into the game three points above Athletic in the La Liga table and are currently on a two game winning streak. Charles and Sergio Enrich have combined to score four goals so far this season, but the team’s defense have been inconsistent. Mendilibar’s side have conceded 12 goals through eight games and have only scored nine times this season.
The argument could be made that Athletic deserve more points than they have at the moment. The Lions have played exciting football this season, but mistakes and lack of scoring have seen the team only earn one victory. Athletic lost their last game 3-1 against Real Sociedad and are anxious to get back to their winning ways. Berizzo’s side have actually performed quite well away from home and could do the same at Ipurua.
Mendilibar will have some difficult decisions to make regarding his lineup with starting center-back Paulo Oliveira set to miss the match. The 26-year-old recently suffered a muscle injury in training which means that Anaitz Arbilla and Iván Ramis will likely pair up in the back line. At the same time, Pedro Leon and Gonzalo Escalante are still out of action at the moment and will not feature against Athletic.
This may actually be the most healthy Athletic have been all season. Iñigo Lekue is still recovering from a fractured ankle and Beñat just got released from the hospital on Saturday, but the rest of the squad is available. Berizzo has called up a very strong squad for the match at Ipurua which could see the return of Aritz Aduriz in the starting lineup. The 37-year-old has trained with the starters all week at Lezama and could definitely be a difference maker on Sunday.
From a neutral point of view this should be a very entertaining game. Athletic’s style of intense pressure and possession-based attacking will clash with Eibar’s desire to get the ball out to the wide areas and put in crosses. As Berizzo said in his press conference, the midfield will be fundamental. On paper this is a very even match and Athletic will have to be at their best if they are going to pick up all three points at Ipurua.
Athletic Club Projected XI: Unai Simón, Oscar De Marcos, Yeray, Iñigo Martinez, Yuri Berchiche, Dani García, Unai López, Iker Muniain, Raúl García, Iñaki Williams, Aritz Aduriz