Previewing Sevilla vs Athletic Club: LaLiga Matchday 19
Athletic have been looking forward to their trip to the Ramón Sánchez Pizjuán since facing Sevilla on the final day of last season. At the time, the Basques needed just a draw to finish 7th and qualify for the Europa League but fell 2-0 and were overtaken in the table. The result haunted the team throughout the summer and has been a major focus in the buildup to Friday’s return to Seville.
The Lions want to avenge the loss and are determined to bring all three points back home to Bilbao, but it won’t be easy. In addition to Sevilla being one of the strongest teams in La Liga, Athletic haven’t won a league game at the Ramón Sánchez Pizjuán since November of 2011. It’s time for the streak to come to an end.
Sevilla have just one win in their last three league games and are coming off of an unexpected loss to Villarreal at home just before the Christmas break. The Andalusians have suffered just two defeats in Seville all season but have had problems scoring goals over the past few months. Julen Lopetegui’s side have managed to score more than a single goal in a game just once since October.
Likewise, Athletic have also had difficulties in the final third but have been one of Europe’s best defensive teams this season. The Lions are coming off of a big draw against Real Madrid but haven’t won in their last two league games and are in need of a victory to continue climbing the table. Regardless of recent results, the team is full of confidence going into Friday’s match.
Once again, Gaizka Garitano will be without a few key players. Aritz Aduriz and Iker Muniain have returned to training but haven’t been cleared for action. Oscar De Marcos will also be unavailable as he is recovering from a recent ankle injury while Gaizka Larrazabal misses out due to sickness. The rest of the squad is available and the Mister has called up 18 players while leaving behind Mikel San José and Iñigo Córdoba.
Friday’s match will be one of the most difficult for Athletic this season. Sevilla’s current place in the top four is well-deserved, but they have shown some weaknesses that the Basques can exploit. Athletic’s excellent defending could make things very difficult for their hosts who have struggled to score goals as of late and players like Iñaki Williams, who has played well against Sevilla, could take advantage of a lack of pace in the back line.
Garitano could choose to field three center-back once again after the success against Real Madrid, but that remains to be seen. Either way, Friday’s clash will likely be won and lost in the midfield. If Athletic can control the pace of play, avoid mistakes, and create chances the Zurigorri could finally put an end to the winless streak at Estadio Ramón Sánchez Pizjuán and return to Bilbao with all three points in hand.
Projected Athletic Club XI: Unai Simón, Ander Capa, Yeray, Unai Núñez, Iñigo Martinez, Yuri Berchiche, Dani García, Mikel Vesga, Raúl García, Iñaki Williams, Kenan Kodro