Previewing Athletic Club vs Real Sociedad: LaLiga Matchday 3a
The Basque Derby is here. One of football’s oldest and most respected rivalries will be played once again when Athletic host Real Sociedad at San Mamés on Friday night. Both sides come into the game with one win and one draw to start the season but looking for much more than three points. Victory is the only acceptable outcome and the Lions are ready for war.
Throughout history Athletic have been the better side. The Lions have 59 wins to La Real’s 50, with 37 draws coming as well. However, it’s been the Gipuzkoan’s who have had all the success in recent years. Athletic haven’t beaten their rivals since December of 2017 and are eager to put the poor streak to rest. The players have been more fired up than usual leading up to the match and it’s clear that they won’t settle for anything less than a massive win at home.
Real Sociedad come into Friday’s match fresh off of a thrilling 1-0 win over newly-promoted Mallorca. The prior week La Real drew 1-1 with Valencia but have shown flashes of brilliance with a team full of new and exciting signings. Imanol Alguacil has the team playing an exciting style of attacking football and the recent statements from Iñaki Williams will be sure to have the visitors taking this game as seriously as ever.
Athletic’s form to start the season has been excellent as well. The league opener win over Barcelona proved the Lions have the quality to play at the highest level and the following draw with Getafe was a good result on the road. Gaizka Garitano has the side playing organized football with a focus on attacking down the wings. It’s been hard for any team to break down the Zurigorri defense which will be a key factor on Friday night.
Gartiano will have to make due without Oscar De Marcos who suffered an ankle injury against Getafe. The 30-year-old will miss around one month which means that someone will take his place on the right wing. Ibai Gomez and Gaizka Larrazabal are both great options, though recent training sessions suggest that Iñigo Córdoba will be the one to come into the lineup. If that’s the case, Córdoba would play on the left while Iker Muniain would move over to the right.
That won’t be the only decision that Garitano has to make. Iñigo Martinez is fully fit and ready to play, but the partnership of Yeray and Unai Nuñez has been strong to start the season. Martinez will, of course, want to start against his former club but the Mister must choose between current stability and putting faith in what has worked so far this season. Either way, the Athletic defense will be as strong as ever.
With two vastly different styles of football on display, Friday’s Derby should make for a wonderful spectacle. The added drama of Williams’s statements and the fact that Athletic haven’t won in nearly two years gives this match even more heat. Athletic know what they must do to win, but it’s never that simple. When it comes to the Basque Derby favorites and form are thrown out the window.
Projected Athletic Club XI: Unai Simón, Ander Capa, Unai Nuñez, Iñigo Martinez, Yuri Berchiche, Dani García, Unai López, Iker Muniain, Raul García, Iñigo Córdoba, Iñaki Williams