Previewing Athletic Club vs Granada: La Liga Matchday 15
Athletic made a statement with last weekend’s win against Osasuna. It had been 31 games since a team last went into El Sadar and left with all three points and the victory saw the Lions climb to 5th in the La Liga table. Sunday’s match against Granada at San Mamés will be another difficult challenge for the Basques who are confident that they can extend their winning streak.
Granada have been one of the biggest surprises of the season thus far. Just a few weeks ago they were at the very top of the table, but have since dropped off with a four-game unbeaten streak that includes three losses. History favors Athletic as well. The Zurigorri have won 24 of the 46 total meetings with Granada with the previous two fixtures both ending in Athletic victories.
Once again, Gaizka Garitano will be without Iker Muniain, who is sidelined until January with a hamstring injury, as well as Aritz Aduriz who continues to nurse a hip injury. Iñaki Williams, Raúl García, and Kenan Kodro all returned to training on Friday and have been cleared to play against Granada which was a big relief for the Lions ahead of an important match.
Meanwhile, Diego Martínez will also have a key absence on Sunday with defender Germán Sánchez ruled out with an injury. In fact, Domingos Duarte and José Antonio Martínez will be the only true center-backs available to the manager for the trip to Bilbao. Apart from the backline, Granada will be expected to field their strongest lineup in hopes to shocking the Lions at San Mamés.
While Garitano will have options to make changes to the lineup on Sunday it’s very unlikely that he will do so. The team played well at El Sadar which means that Oihan Sancet could keep his place in the team with Raúl García continuing to lead the attack. Either way, this match will be a clash of ideology with both teams playing very different styles of football.
Granada have been one of the best attacking sides in La Liga this year, having already scored 20 goals, but have also struggled at the back with 18 goals conceded. Meanwhile, Athletic’s commitment to defending has seen the Basques stand among some of the best clubs in Europe. Garitano’s system has brought the best out of the squad in recent weeks and the Lions have managed to scored more goals which will be important against an opponent like Granada.
While Granada have impressed with their ability to attack they haven’t been able to score more than one goal per game in their last six fixtures. Having had the entire week to prepare, Garitano’s side could have the recipe for silencing the Granada forwards. In the end, Athletic’s high pressure could be the factor that decides the game. If the Zurigorri came make their visitors uncomfortable it will not only slow down the attack, but will also give Athletic possession in dangerous areas. Three massive points are on the line and San Mamés will be roaring.
Projected Athletic Club XI: Unai Simón, Ander Capa, Yeray, Iñigo Martinez, Yuri Berchiche, Dani García, Unai López, Iñaki Williams, Oihan Sancet, Iñigo Córdoba, Raúl García