Previewing Athletic Club vs Levante: La Liga Matchday 30
“Every single point is important”. That’s the message that Gaizka Garitano has sent to his team with just nine games remaining this season and Athletic deep in a battle for European qualification. On Wednesday night the Lions will host Levante at San Mamés where a win could see the Basques climb as high as a tie for 6th place and just 4 points off of the last Champions League spot. The motivation is real.
Surprisingly, Athletic and Levante haven’t played a lot of matches against each other. The Zurigorri have won 13 of the total 25 meetings and boast a +8 goal difference all time. Lately, things haven’t gone Athletic’s way. Levante have won the last two fixtures, including the 3-0 drumming back in December which prompted the coaching change that saw Gaizka Garitano take over as the manager.
A lot has changed since the last time these two face off. Levante have fallen far down the La Liga table and currently find themselves 15th and just 4 points off of the relegation zone. Levante have won just once in their last 9 matches and come into Wednesday’s night riding a 5 game winless streak. A loss to Athletic could seriously put the club into a battle against relegation and they will look to take all three points at the Cathedral.
When Athletic lost to Levante back in December they were in a dark place. Garitano took over a team 18th in the table but since the change the Lions have the 4th best record in La Liga. Athletic have lost just twice under the manager and are currently on a three-game unbeaten streak. The Basques have yet to taste defeat at home and San Mamés will be roaring once again on Wednesday night.
Garitano will be without Dani García who suffered a hamstring injury in the previous match. Mikel San José is expected to take his place in the lineup alongside Beñat. Aritz Aduriz could have been called up for this game, but the manager admitted that it would have been a risk and the decision was made to give the striker more time to prepare for his return. The rest of the squad is available and the lineup likely won’t change much from recent matches.
In Tuesday’s pregame press conference Garitano warned that Athletic will have to account for Levante’s speed going forward. He noted their ability to counterattack and create chances, singling out the likes of Roger Martí and José Luis Morales. On another note, Levante have struggled to defend set pieces and crosses this season which could work to Athletic’s favor. Organization will be a big key to victory once again. The Lions can’t afford to give away possession in dangerous areas and must take their chances if they are going to secure all three points.
Projected Athletic Club XI: Iago Herrerín, Ander Capa, Yeray, Iñigo Martinez, Yuri Berchiche, Mikel San José, Beñat, Oscar De Marcos, Raúl García, Iker Muniain, Iñaki Williams