Previewing Athletic Club vs Real Valladolid: LaLiga Matchday 9
The international break is finally over and that means Athletic football is back. After suffering two straight losses the Lions will be looking to get back to their winning ways on Sunday when they host Real Valladolid at San Mamés. A win would see the Basques keep pace in the race for Europe, and possibly climb the table, but anything less could have massive repercussions.
Athletic have enjoyed success against Real Valladolid throughout history, winning 40 of the 88 total matches. In fact, the Pucela haven’t won a game at San Mamés since 2003 which also means that they have yet to record a victory at the new stadium. While the numbers suggest that Athletic should come away with a positive result it’s also worth noting that the Basques haven’t beaten Real Valladolid in their previous two meetings. Last year’s match in Bilbao ended in a 1-1 draw with the visitors scoring a stoppage time equalizer which was one of the most disappointing results of the campaign.
Real Valladolid have improved since their last trip to San Mamés. After narrowly avoiding relegation last season, the Pucela currently sit 13th and are just two points behind Athletic. Manager Sergio González Soriano has the team playing with a defined structure that has brought good results. Having conceded just 8 goals so far, Real Valladolid are one of the most organized defensive sides in Spain, though they have struggled greatly to create scoring chances up front.
Sergio will have to make do without striker Sandro Ramirez who has been ruled out with an injury which means that Enas Unal could return to the starting lineup. Unal assisted Óscar Plano for the late equalizer at San Mamés last season. The rest of the team will likely remain unchanged with Real Valladolid looking to build on their rhythm from their fantastic performance against Atlético Madrid before the international break.
Athletic had a meteoric start to the season with wins over Barcelona and Real Sociedad but have since come back down to earth. The Lions lost their last two matches leading up to the international break and are in danger of falling out of the European zone of the table if they fail to win on Sunday. Gaizka Garitano has had two weeks to prepare for the match and anything less than a great performance will be unacceptable at San Mamés.
Yuri Berchiche will miss his second straight game as he continues to recover from a dislocated shoulder which means that Mikel Balenziaga should be back in the lineup. In addition, Ibai Gómez has been dealing with a muscle injury for over a week and will also be unavailable. Garitano will have a big decision to make as to who will feature on the right wing while it appears as though Unai Núñez could be set to start over Iñigo Martinez in defense based on the latest training sessions.
Sunday’s match will be interesting as it will feature two teams who are exceptional defensively, but have found it difficult to score goals at the other end of the pitch. In truth, the winner of this fixture will be whichever side can control the midfield and find ways to create chances in attack. It won’t be easy, but Athletic have the perfect opportunity to put an end to their losing streak and extend their impressive run at home against Real Valladolid.
Projected Athletic Club XI: Unai Simón, Ander Capa, Yeray, Iñigo Martinez, Mikel Balenziaga, Dani García, Unai López, Iker Muniain, Raúl García, Iñigo Córdoba, and Iñaki Williams