Previewing Real Betis vs Athletic Club: LaLiga Matchday 16
Athletic moved to 4th in the La Liga table with last weekend’s win over Granada and are determined to climb even higher. With an opportunity to record their fourth straight victory, the Lions will travel to Seville on Sunday for a game against Real Betis. Both sides are in terrific form at the moment and neither will be willing to settle for anything less than all three points.
While Athletic may have only one win on the road this season, that victory came in the team’s last trip away from San Mamés. Ending Osasuna’s remarkable streak at El Sadar two weeks ago has filled the Lions with confidence and history favors the Basques in this fixture as well. Athletic are unbeaten in their last five games against Betis, with four wins, and haven’t lost at the Benito Villamarín in nearly three years, the last coming back on 11 December 2016.
After managing without Iker Muniain and Aritz Aduriz last weekend, Gaizka Garitano will also have to replace Raúl García in the lineup. The forward is serving a suspension after picking up his 5th yellow card of the season and the manager will have to choose between starting Kenan Kodro at striker or moving Iñaki Williams back from the right wing.
The rest of the lineup should remain unchanged. There was concern that Ander Capa would also be unavailable after missing Friday’s training session, but Garitano explained during Saturday’s press conference that the right-back is expected to play and was simply dealing with discomfort.
Rubi will also have a few absences to overcome with Juanmi, Williams Carvalho, Mandi, and Sidnei all ruled out with injuries. However, Cristian Tello and Alex Moreno recently returned to training and have been included in the squad. Apart from the absences, the Betis manager isn’t expected to make any changes to the lineup that has won two straight games.
Betis presents an interesting challenge for Athletic due to their unique formation and style of play. The defense regularly alternates between four and five at the back which has brought success in some games, but has also seen Betis concede 25 goals already this season. On the other hand, Los Beticos also play a possession-based style of football that will require Athletic to be at their absolute best defensively in order to limit the chances in front of goal. Loren Morón leads the team with 8 goals this season.
Following their poor start to the season Betis are now just five points off the top seven and could make a significant jump in the table with a win over Athletic. Meanwhile, the Zurigorri have been building confidence and are eager to prove that they can challenge for Champions League qualification this season. Both sides will have opportunities to score on Sunday in what should be a very exciting matchup, which means the result will likely be decided by whichever team can control the pace of play and make the fewest mistakes.
Projected Athletic Club XI: Unai Simón, Ander Capa, Yeray, Iñigo Martinez, Yuri Berchiche, Dani García, Unai López, Iñaki Williams, Oihan Sancet, Iñigo Córdoba, Kenan Kodro