Previewing Huesca vs Athletic Club: La Liga Matchday 24
“After playing such an important game we are all very motivated.” Those were the words of Athletic midfielder Mikel San José when asked about Monday night’s game against Huesca. The Lions are coming off of an impressive draw against Barcelona and want to build on the momentum. A win could see the Basques climb a few places in the La Liga table, but a loss could put them back in a serious battle against relegation.
There hasn’t been much history between the two sides, other than friendly matches, but that all changed this year. Athletic and Huesca met for the first time in an official match in late August and it was a thriller. The Lions took a 2-0 lead but Huesca stormed back to pull level at the San Mamés and the game ended in a draw. They would meet two more times in the Copa del Rey with Athletic winning both 4-0. Now they will play for the fourth time this season and the points are vitally important for both clubs.
Huesca may be at the very bottom of the La Liga table, but they seem to have turned a corner recently. They are unbeaten in their last three games, with two wins, and haven’t conceded a single goal. Manager Francisco has altered the playing style to a more defensive scheme that focuses on counter attacking and it’s worked wonders. Signing Enric Gallego and Javi Galán in January has also brought important quality into the team and is making a big difference.
Every single game for the rest of the season will be a final for Huesca. At the moment it looks very difficult for them to actually climb out of the bottom of the table, but they are facing the challenge with determination. Francisco will surely be starting his strongest possible lineup against Athletic and playing at the Estadio El Alcoraz will give them an even bigger boost.
Athletic have been playing sensational football under Gaizka Garitano, but currently find themselves in a two game winless streak. Two weeks ago they fell 2-1 to Real Sociedad in the Basque Derby, but responded in a big way with Sunday’s draw against Barcelona. It may have only earned them one point, but it was an important result for the Lions who are now building momentum again. The La Liga table is tighter than ever before and that makes Monday night’s game against Huesca another must-win match.
The Zurigorri will be without a few key players for the fixture. Dani García and Oscar De Marcos are both suspended, which means that Mikel San José and Ander Capa will have to step up in their place. Meanwhile, Aritz Aduriz and Iñigo Lekue are both still injured. Beñat, Markel Susaeta, and Kenan Kodro all dealt with minor injuries throughout the week but are expected to be available for the game. It will also be interesting to see what the manager does with the right wing position with Ibai Gómez, Raul García, and Markel Susaeta all options to start. Gaizka Garitano has spent the entire week putting together a game plan for Monday night and it’s safe to say that Athletic have played well under the manager no matter who has been on the field.
Huesca present an interesting challenge for Athletic. The two teams are playing a similar style of football which could lead to a very open game, or one that is more conservative. Both sides desperately need the three points to improve their situation in the table. For Athletic to win they will have to be organized defensively and keep Gallego from getting scoring chances. Transitions to attacking must be done quickly and it will be crucial to finish in front of goal. Once again Athletic face a difficult opponent and a win is absolutely necessary.
Projected Athletic Club XI: Iago Herrerín, Ander Capa, Yeray, Iñigo Martinez, Yuri Berchiche, Mikel San José, Beñat, Raúl García, Iker Muniain, Iñigo Córdoba, Iñaki Williams