Previewing Sevilla vs Athletic Club: La Liga Matchday 38
It all comes down to this. Athletic escaped the relegation battle long ago and are now in position to book their place in next year’s Europa League. The situation is simple. Win, and the Basques will finish 6th. A draw would see Athletic secure 7th place and enter the preliminary rounds of the Europa League, but a loss could see one of Real Sociedad or Espanyol overtake the Lions. There’s no room for error.
Athletic and Sevilla have a rich history, having played against each other 155 times. The results are almost identical with Sevilla having won 64 meetings and Athletic winning 61 of their own. Even this year the two clubs did battle back in January where they played three straight games with the league fixture bookended by the Copa del Rey. That intense week would go on to change the season for both clubs.
Sevilla managed to knock the Lions out of the Copa del Rey, but their 2-0 league loss at San Mamés started a freefall that saw Joaquin Caparros return as manager in April. Meanwhile, that same game proved that Athletic had turned things around under Gaizka Garitano and provided needed confidence going into the final months of the season. Athletic did win 1-0 at the Ramon Sánchez Pizjuán in the second leg of the Cup but haven’t beaten Sevilla on the road in a league match since November of 2011.
Both teams have a very important goal on the line. While Athletic are playing to book their place in Europe next season, Sevilla will try to fend off the Lions in hopes of not falling into 7th place. Whichever club finishes 7th will have their summer vacation cut short as they will have to start their Europa League campaign in the qualifying rounds in late July.
Athletic know that just one point will be enough to achieve their goal and even Iker Muniain has said that he would sign up right now for a draw. However, he also made it clear that the Zurigorri will go to Sevilla with the goal of winning. Beñat also commented on the situation, saying that playing for a draw puts you in a position to lose. A draw may be enough, but Athletic have no plans to settle.
Gaizka Garitano will have his entire squad available for the match which is something that most teams can’t say at the end of the season. The Mister will be able to field his strongest lineup with absolutely everything left to play for. Athletic will look to control the middle of the field and limit Sevilla’s chances, but games like this are often unpredictable.
Athletic understand the magnitude of this match. Just a few months ago the Basques looked like they would be battling relegation all season and now Europe is just a breath away. Garitano and the players have turned the entire year around in a truly remarkable way, but their work isn’t over yet. There’s one more game left. One more opportunity to do the unthinkable, one more challenge to overcome.
Projected Athletic Club XI: Iago Herrerín, Ander Capa, Yeray, Iñigo Martinez, Yuri Berchiche, Dani García, Beñat, Ibai Gómez, Raúl García, Iker Muniain, Iñaki Williams