Previewing Athletic Club vs Celta Vigo: La Liga Matchday 37
Athletic will host Celta Vigo at San Mamés this Sunday in what will be one of the most special, and important, games of the entire season. The Lions will be playing for Europe. A victory at home, coupled with three other teams dropping points, would guarantee a top 7 finish for the Basques. The match will also serve as the farewell fixture for Markel Susaeta, Ander Iturraspe, and Mikel Rico who are all leaving the club this summer. This one means everything.
History favors Athletic who have won 59 of the 109 total meetings with Celta and boast a +89 goal difference. Recent results also suggest a positive outcome with the Lions victorious in 4 of the last 6 matches and just one loss. Athletic came away with a 2-1 win at Balaidos earlier this season with a goal and assist from Iñaki Williams and will be hoping for another massive three points this Sunday.
Celta come into the weekend in an interesting position. The Galicians have been in a relegation battle for a while now, but the return of Iago Aspas seems to have changed everything. The Celestes are unbeaten in their last four games, including an impressive 2-0 win over Barcelona on Saturday. However, they are still just three points clear of the relegation zone and need points to ensure their salvation.
Fran Escribá will have nearly his entire squad available for the match. Only Emre Mor and David Juncá have been ruled out as the pair have been recovering from injuries since March. Celta are expected to line up in their traditional 4-4-2 formation that emphasizes counter attacks and playing through the wings. Athletic’s defense will certainly be put to the test.
Athletic left the relegation battle behind several weeks ago and now have a new goal. With the Lions currently 7th in the table they control their own destiny in the race for Europe. The previous few weeks haven’t been kind though with the Basques picking up just two wins in their last six matches. Sunday’s 1-0 loss to Real Valladolid was extremely disappointing and now the Zurigorri have no room for error.
One reason for the team’s recent dip in form has been the mass of injuries. Gaizka Garitano has had to make do without several key players for a while now, but that has finally changed. On Friday the entire squad trained normally which means the Mister will have everyone at his disposal going into the most crucial point of the season. With Europe on the line, Garitano is expected to start his strongest lineup against Celta.
Both teams have everything to play for at San Mamés and that means it will be a tight match. If Athletic are to walk away with all three points they must keep Celta from creating chances for Aspas and Maxi Gómez. The Galicians like to attack down the wings so it will be crucial for Athletic to dictate the pace of the game and stay organized in defense. If the Zurigorri can limit Celta’s chances and make the most of their own, Athletic could officially qualify for Europe on Sunday.
Projected Athletic Club XI: Iago Herrerín, Ander Capa, Yeray, Iñigo Martinez, Yuri Berchiche, Dani García, Beñat, Ibai Gómez, Raúl García, Iker Muniain, Iñaki Williams