Athletic’s Friendly Against Roma Will Be A Blueprint For Barcelona
Athletic’s poor start to last season put the team in a very difficult situation. By December the Lions were in a relegation battle and many players have made it clear that a start strong this year will be vitally important. Opening the campaign against Barcelona makes that goal difficult, but the Basques are determined to get a positive result at San Mamés.
Throughout the preseason Gaizka Garitano has kept his key players out of friendlies with smaller clubs, choosing instead to test them against the stronger opposition. This week the Lions will play their final two matches of the summer and Wednesday’s meeting with Roma is expected to be used as a blueprint for the La Liga opener against Barcelona.
With Athletic playing Mirandés the following day, the stars will once again be the focus during the trip to Italy. Garitano will put his very best on the field and sources claim that the starting lineup used against Roma could very well be the same one that will play Barcelona. Iñigo Martinez’s recovery and Yeray’s recent shoulder injury could complicate things, but for the most part Wednesday’s friendly will be a final tune-up match before hosting the Catalans.
Most of the starting lineup is already clear. Ander Capa and Yuri Berchiche are still the choices at fullback with Yeray and Martinez the top partnership at center-back if both are healthy. Dani García will continue to anchor the midfield and it seems as though Unai López has overtaken Beñat’s spot in the lineup this summer. Raúl García is expected to operate in the attacking midfielder role.
Iker Muniain will start on the wing, though it’s not clear yet whether it will be Ibai Gómez or Iñigo Córdoba on the other side. Iñaki Williams will lead the attack and has shown lethal finishing in front of goal during the preseason. The biggest question is still who will be in goal. Iago Herrerín and Unai Simón have been battling for the starting role all summer and Garitano has yet to reveal his decision.
Kicking off the new season with a win, or at least a draw, against Barcelona would be huge for Athletic. The Lions have gone two consecutive years without European competition and it will be up to Garitano to put together the strongest possible team to challenge for a top-six finish. Wednesday’s match against Roma will be the team’s final trial run.