Previewing Espanyol vs Athletic Club
It has been eight days since Athletic Club’s last match and the Lions are eager to get back on the field as they look to start climbing the La Liga table. On Monday night they will travel to take on Espanyol who have had a great season thus far. It certainly won’t be an easy game for either side, but Eduardo Berizzo is hopeful that his team will put in a solid performance and their intention is to win.
When it comes to recent results it is impossible to overlook the fact that Athletic haven’t beaten Espanyol on the road in league play since January of 1998. To put that in perspective, it has been nearly 21 years and over 7,600 days. In fact, the last time the Basques did win away current President Josu Urrutia was in the starting lineup. Throughout the entire history between these two teams Athletic have won 71 matches to Espanyol’s 65 and have a +50 goal difference, but the biggest focus right now is on conquering RCDE stadium.
Espanyol have been in terrific form this season and entered the weekend in 5th place in the La Liga table with 18 points. Rubi’s side have been well-balanced with a solid defense, dangerous forwards, and a midfield led by Marc Roca who has been the engine that ties everything together. The Catalans drew their last La Liga match 1-1 against Real Valladolid and lost 2-1 midweek to Cadiz in the Copa del Rey as they rotated the squad.
Rubi will be without Hernán Pérez and Naldo who will both miss the match with injuries. Other than that he has everyone else available which means that he will be able to start what has been the team’s strongest lineup this season. Leo Baptistao and Victor Sánchez did start the midweek game against Cadiz which could affect how the manager sets up his team.
Athletic are currently in a historic slump as they have now gone nine consecutive games without a victory. This is the worst streak in 31 years dating back to when the Lions defeated Osasuna 4-1 on 10 January 1987 and didn’t win again until they beat Murcia on 25 March. The team is coming off a good game against Valencia that ended in a scoreless draw and currently find themselves just two spots above the relegation zone and in desperate need of a victory.
For the first time this season Eduardo Berizzo has had the entire squad available for training this week. Beñat has recovered from his sickness and has been included in the squad list for Monday’s game, along with Unai Nuñez and Iñigo Córdoba who haven’t featured as prominently this year as they did last season. With a healthy team and eight days to prepare for the match against Espanyol there will be no excuse if the Basques fail to put in a strong performance in Barcelona.
During his pregame press conference, Eduardo Berizzo put a heavy emphasis on Athletic’s need to press effectively. Espanyol have a strong midfield and dangerous forwards so the manager wants his team to do everything possible to make their hosts uncomfortable Monday night. It is going to be an extremely difficult game for the Basques who are not only looking to secure a much-needed victory, but also hoping to put an end to a winless streak spanning two decades. The Zurigorri will need to be at their best if they want to take all three points and the fans will accept nothing less.
Projected Athletic Club XI: Iago Herrerín, Oscar De Marcos, Yeray, Iñigo Martinez, Yuri Berchiche, Dani García, Iker Muniain, Raúl García, Iñaki Williams, Aritz Aduriz, Markel Susaeta