Previewing Athletic Club vs Valencia
Football returns to the San Mamés on Saturday after seeing Athletic play their last two games away from home. The Basques will be welcoming Valencia to The Cathedral as they look to get back to their winning ways. Both sides only have one victory on the year and are desperate to add more points which makes this meeting a vitally important fixture for the two clubs.
History is once again on Athletic’s side going into this match. The Lions haven’t lost to Los Che in the last seven meetings at home and Valencia manager Marcelino García Toral has never won a game at the San Mamés. Striker Aritz Aduriz has also been absolutely lethal against his former club, scoring 11 goals in 14 career matches against Valencia. He could start his third game in a row as he looks to open up his scoring tally this season. This will be Valencia’s 84th trip to the San Mamés in league play and the Lions have won 49 of those fixtures.
Valencia enter the game one point ahead of Athletic in the La Liga table and have been underperforming this year. Despite qualifying for the Champions League last season, they have not been able to replicate the same form and have struggled to find the back of the net. Marcelino’s side only have seven goals on the season and fans are beginning to show their unhappiness with the team’s performances.
Even though Valencia just played a difficult Champions League match on the road against BSC Young Boys on Tuesday, Marcelino has brought a very strong squad to Bilbao. Denis Cheryshev and Gonçalo Guedes will not feature against Athletic, but other dangerous forwards such as Michy Batshuayi and Kevin Gameiro are available.
On a similar note, Athletic fans are also losing patience with their team. Ibaigane spent a lot of money over the last year to bring in players like Iñigo Martinez, Dani García, Ander Capa, and Yuri Berchiche, but the team has been poor under Eduardo Berizzo. The Lions have come eight straight games without a win and currently find themselves just one point above the relegation zone.
Beñat is still unavailable for Athletic as he recovers from his sickness. He has begun working with the ball at Lezama and Berizzo recently stated that he will return after Saturday’s game. Meanwhile, Iñigo Lekue is in the final stages of his recovery from a fractured ankle. Everyone else is able to play and Berizzo has called up a very strong squad, including Unai Nuñez who was left out of the team the last two games. The manager admitted that there could be some changes in the lineup and has demanded more intensity from his players.
Saturday’s game will likely be decided by the midfield. Valencia have very good players in the center of the pitch and it will be up to Athletic to impose their style of play early on if they want to earn a needed victory. Once again Athletic find themselves in a match that could be classified as a must win. Three points would go a long way towards helping the team start climbing the La Liga table, but a loss could see them entrenched at the bottom of the league. The fans demand nothing short of a solid performance and it is up to the team to respond at the San Mamés.
Projected Athletic Club XI: Iago Herrerín, Ander Capa, Unai Nuñez, Iñigo Martinez, Yuri Berchiche, Dani García, Raúl García, Iker Muniain, Iñaki Williams, Aritz Aduriz, Markel Susaeta