Mikel Balenziaga Could Start Over Yuri Berchiche Against Alavés As Garitano Shakes Up Defense In Training

Mikel Balenziaga

Mikel Balenziaga could start over Yuri Berchiche on Monday night (LaLiga)

Since taking over as Athletic manager Gaizka Garitano has done everything right. He’s won both games that he’s coached, has the team playing a defined style of football, and seems to have helped the players rediscover their confidence. Now he will face his biggest test yet as the Lions travel to take on Alavés on Monday night in a game that could see Athletic climb out of the relegation zone with a positive result.

Garitano has been preparing for the match all week and finally has almost the entire team available. Other than Mikel Rico, who is still nursing an ankle injury, the manager has every player at his disposal which gives him even more options to choose from. There has been a lot of talk about what the starting lineup could look like on Monday night and there might be one unforeseen selection.

With Yuri Berchiche’s three game suspension now over the 28-year-old was expected to jump back into the starting lineup, but that might not be the case. During Thursday’s training session at Lezama Garitano worked with four specific defenders while the rest of squad trained in a separate group. Ander Capa, Yeray, Iñigo Martinez, and Mikel Balenziaga made up the backline and could be the ones to start in front of Iago Herrerín against Alavés.

There is no guarantee that Balenziaga will start at left-back but the latest training session does suggest that will be the case. Garitano may be looking to utilize Berchiche in a more advanced role like Eduardo Berizzo did a few times earlier this season, although that remains to be seen. Regardless of who starts at the Mendizorrotza, Athletic are only focused on winning. Garitano has made it clear that the Lions only care about picking up three points and Monday night’s match will be the perfect opportunity to build on momentum and move free of the relegation zone.

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