Previewing Real Valladolid vs Athletic Club: La Liga Matchday 36
There may only be three games remaining on the schedule, but Athletic have everything left to play for. The Lions currently control 7th place in the La Liga table with a three-point lead over Alavés and will need more positive results to qualify for Europe. Sunday’s trip to Real Valladolid will be crucial, and the hopes of a top-seven finish could rely on taking all three points at Estadio José Zorrilla.
History suggests that this should be a promising match for Athletic. The Lions have faced off with Real Valladolid 87 times throughout history, having won 40 of those meetings. In fact, Valladolid haven’t beaten the Basques in over ten years, the last time being a 2-1 victory at home in February of 2009. Athletic have managed four wins and three draws in the last seven fixtures.
Going into Sunday’s match, Real Valladolid need the points just as badly as Athletic. The Pucela are currently 18th in the La Liga and a win is the only result that could lift them out of the relegation zone. Anything less and they will move one step further away from salvation. Playing at home will give Valladolid an advantage, and being desperate for points makes them extremely dangerous.
Sergio Soriano has called up his strongest squad and will surely field his best lineup at Zorrilla. Valladolid may only have one win in their last 6 matches, but five of those were decided by a single goal or ended in a draw. They boast an organized defense and have a tendency to win back possession in dangerous areas. On the other hand, Valladolid haven’t been a strong attacking team this year. Enes Unal leads the team with 5 goals this season and no one else has more than three.
Athletic missed a beautiful opportunity to move six points clear of Alavés last weekend when they hosted their Basque rivals at San Mamés. The match ended in a 1-1 draw and now the Lions have more work to do to qualify for Europe. It was a difficult week overall for Athletic who had to travel to Real Madrid, Leganés, and then play the Basque Derby all in a matter of 6 days. Now that they’ve had a week to rest and prepare Sunday’s fixture will be massive.
Gaizka Garitano has had to deal with several key players being injured over the past few weeks, but not anymore. Ibai Gómez, Dani García, Ander Capa, and Yeray all returned to training this week and are available to the manager. Unfortunately, Beñat has been dealing with discomfort and will miss the match. Unai López has been training in his place with the starters.
Both teams know what’s on the line Sunday. For Athletic, it’s a chance to nearly secure 7th place or better while Real Valladolid could potentially climb out of the relegation zone. Three crucial points are there for the taking and Athletic will have to be at their best to conquer the Zorrilla.
Projected Athletic Club XI: Iago Herrerín, Ander Capa, Yeray, Iñigo Martinez, Yuri Berchiche, Dani García, Unai López, Oscar De Marcos, Raúl García, Iker Muniain, Iñaki Williams