Athletic Club Facing Injury Crisis During Crucial Final Stretch Of The Season
No one would have dared predicted that Athletic would be here back in December. When Gaizka Garitano took over on 4 December the Basques were drowning in the relegation zone. Even if there was optimism about the coaching change, the idea of fighting for Europe seemed impossible, but that’s where things stand now.
With Sunday’s win over Rayo Vallecano, Athletic have officially moved into 7th place in the La Liga table. If the season were to end right now they would enter the qualifying round of the Europa League. The season doesn’t end now, though. There are still six games left to be played and every single point will be crucial for the Lions who aim to finish in the top seven.
Athletic won’t have an easy road over the next few weeks. They will travel to Real Madrid on Sunday and must face Celta Vigo and Sevilla in the final two fixtures of the season. If that wasn’t difficult enough, Garitano will also have to wade through the waters of a serious injury crisis that could extend through the remainder of the calendar.
At the moment Athletic are without Ander Capa and Ibai Gómez. Both have been recovering well, but the Mister has already revealed that they won’t be ready for the trip to the Santiago Bernabéu. For the second straight match, the Lions will have little depth on the right side of the field and must make some adjustments to the team. It’s even possible that the pair could be on the sidelines for much longer with the next match against Leganés coming just days later.
Athletic will also be without another key player in Dani García. The midfielder suffered a relapse to a hamstring injury in the win over Rayo Vallecano and Garitano admitted after the game that García could miss the remainder of the season. Mikel San José will be expected to cover the absence, but being without Dani García leaves the double pivot without much depth as well.
Yuri Berchiche is also dealing with a sprained shoulder joint that saw him leave Sunday’s match early in the second half. The manager actually revealed that it’s been an issue for a while, but the left-back will be undergoing tests which could affect his availability in upcoming matches.
There’s no denying the fact that Garitano has had a lot of issues to deal with since taking over as the manager. Still, being without several key players during the race for Europe with just six games left is certainly a huge challenge. If Athletic do manage to qualify for Europe it won’t be a fluke. The Zurigorri will have earned their place. It’s been a season of overcoming struggle and, injuries or not, this team has shown the fearlessness and desire to do the impossible.