Previewing Athletic Club vs Levante: LaLiga Matchday 13
The La Liga table is as tight as ever. Just 6 points separate 13th place from leaders Real Sociedad and over half of the clubs in the league are in contention for European qualification. Athletic currently find themselves 10th in the table after the opening 12 matches but will have the opportunity to climb a few spots on Sunday when they host Levante at San Mamés.
Matches between the two clubs have been very entertaining over the years. At least three goals have been scored in each of the last five meetings, including last year’s 3-2 thriller which saw Athletic win at the Cathedral. In total, the Basques have won four of the past six games in Bilbao, but Levante have proven to be a strong opponent.
At the moment both sides are level on 17 points, though Athletic do have a higher goal differential. A victory would be a massive result for either side and Levante certainly have the confidence needed to get a good result at San Mamés. La Granota are coming off of wins over Barcelona and Real Sociedad and adding three points against Athletic would put Levante firmly in the race for Europe.
The match at San Mamés will be important for Levante, but for two players it will also be very special. Striker José Luis Morales made his La Liga debut at the Cathedral back in 2014 and sports a Lion tattoo to commemorate the occasion. Meanwhile, goalkeeper Aitor Fernández was raised at Lezama and is expected to start Sunday’s match against his boyhood club. Fernández was actually in danger of missing the game due to being summoned to serve at a polling station but has been excused and is cleared to play.
Levante may be hoping to continue their impressive run, but Athletic will have other plans. The Lions recently secured their biggest win under Gaizka Garitano, a 3-0 victory over Espanyol, and are determined to build on their momentum. There will be at least one change in the starting lineup with Unai López returning from a muscle injury. The 24-year-old will be expected to feature alongside Dani García in the midfield once again.
Garitano will also have some difficult decisions to make regarding the attack. Iker Muniain has played in a central role in the past two games which brought more creativity in the final third. Raúl García could feature at striker with Iñaki Williams on the wing, though the pair could also alternate. Ibai Gómez started on the opposite wing against Villarreal but struggled defensively which could see Iñigo Córdoba make his return to the lineup.
Several factors will go into deciding Sunday’s result, but the most important thing will be Athletic’s finishing in front of goal. Levante have taken a step forward in attack in recent weeks but are still struggling defensively. At the same time, Athletic’s inability to score goals has been an ongoing problem. The high press will once again be a key to victory for the Basques who must also create enough chances to come away with all three points at the Cathedral.
Projected Athletic Club XI: Unai Simón, Ander Capa, Yeray, Iñigo Martinez, Yuri Berchiche, Dani García, Unai López, Raúl García, Iker Muniain, Iñigo Córdoba, Iñaki Williams