Previewing Intercity vs Athletic Club: Copa Del Rey First Round
Athletic will put their La Liga campaign on pause this Tuesday as the Lions turn their attention to the opening round of the Copa del Rey. The Basques will travel to Elche’s Estadio Martínez Valero where they will face Intercity in what will be a historic game for the Tercera side. With the Cup format changing to just one game instead of home and away legs, Athletic must win to advance to the next round.
Intercity are enjoying just their third season as a football club, making the match against Athletic the biggest game in the team’s history to this point. The Alicante-based side are going all out for the fixture but unfortunately won’t be hosting it at their own stadium due to the Polideportivo failing safety and security assessments. Estadio Martínez Valero is roughly a 20 minute ride away and Intercity will be offering free shuttles for fans to and from the game.
Facing an opponent from the Tercera, Athletic will be expected to win without much trouble. That being said, the Lions were eliminated from the Copa del Rey by Formentera just two years ago and that wound is still fresh. The one-game format adds more pressure for the bigger clubs to perform without the safety of a second leg and Intercity will surely fight tooth and nail to shock the Basque giants.
Intercity come into the game in relatively good form having won three of their last five league games. The team plays an attacking style of football, scoring 27 goals through 17 games while conceding just 14 to this point. Intercity currently sit second in the Group XI table and have several dangerous players that can cause a lot of problems for Athletic if not taken seriously.
Meanwhile, the Lions are winless in their last two games but are determined to make a deep run in the Copa del Rey. Tuesday’s match will give Gaizka Garitano the opportunity to rest several key players, though several traveled with the team. Iker Muniain, Aritz Aduriz, Oscar De Marcos, Yeray, Ander Capa, and Cristian Ganea will miss out due to injury.
Iago Herrerín, Unai Núñez, Iñigo Lekue, Mikel Balenziaga, Mikel Vesga, Beñat, Gaizka Larrazabal, Oihan Sancet, Asier Villalibre, and Kenan Kodro are all possibilities to make the starting lineup. In addition, Garitano was allowed to call up as many of six youth players and summoned Oihan Sancet and Jesús Areso, who could make his first team debut against Intercity.
If Athletic are able to play their game this is a game that the Zurigorri should win and advance to the next round. However, the Copa del Rey is full of surprises and Intercity won’t go down without a fight. Athletic should be able to control the midfield and create chances going forward, though their exceptional defense will still be the key to a victory. Anything less than a win will be an unacceptable result and the Zurigorri have no intentions of leaving Elche without booking their place in the next round.
Projected Athletic Club XI: Iago Herrerín, Iñigo Lekue, Unai Núñez, Iñigo Martinez, Mikel Balenziaga, Mikel Vesga, Beñat, Gaizka Larrazabal, Oihan Sancet, Ibai Gómez, Asier Villalibre