Unai Lopéz’s Muscle Injury Opens The Door For Oihan Sancet To Make First Start Against Villarreal

Unai Lopez Espanyol Injury

Unai López suffered a muscle injury in Athletic’s win over Espanyol (AC)

Slowly but surely Unai López has started to find his rhythm in the Athletic starting lineup. Playing alongside Dani García has given the Lezama product more freedom to attack and, while he still has plenty of room for improvement, López appears to be settling into the team well. The 24-year-old played one of his best games of the season on Wednesday, his birthday, but it didn’t end the way he would have hoped.

As Athletic led 2-0 against Espanyol at the hour mark, López was taken down in the midfield with a physical challenge. He immediately motioned to the sideline to ask for a substitute and was replaced by Mikel San José. “Unai had a little overload in his adductor muscle”, Garitano answered when asked about López’s condition after the match. “It doesn’t seem like anything serious but I don’t think he can travel with us on Sunday.”

The injury comes at a difficult time for Athletic with Beñat also sidelined with an ankle sprain that will keep him out for at least a few more weeks. Gaizka Garitano will have to find a solution for the midfield and could turn to Oihan Sancet who has already made two appearances for the first team this season. Fans have been quite vocal about their desire to see Sancet given more minutes and this could be the perfect chance for the 19-year-old to make his first start.

Athletic have been cautious with how they transition Sancet into the first team due to the midfielder’s age and the fact that he recently returned from a torn ACL last season. However, there is no doubt that the Lezama product is ready to play at this level. Sunday’s trip to Villarreal will be a massive game for Athletic and, just maybe, the opportunity for Oihan Sancet to prove that he deserves a permanent role in Garitano’s squad.

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