Previewing Athletic Club vs Celta Vigo: LaLiga Matchday 20

Oihan Sancet Celta

Celta Vigo beat Athletic 1-0 earlier this season at Balaídos (EC)

Athletic have completed the first half of the La Liga season with 29 points and very much in the race for European qualification. The Lions have have been one of the toughest teams to play against, conceding just 13 goals throughout the campaign, though scoring goals has been an issue. On Sunday Athletic will look to climb the table as they host Celta Vigo at San Mamés where the Zurigorri have been excellent.

Celta haven’t beaten Athletic at the Cathedral in over five years with that victory coming in the Copa del Rey. Since then the Basques have registered three wins and one draw while scoring eight goals and conceding just four. In fact, Athletic have been the better side throughout history with 60 wins in 111 meetings, though Celta stunned the Lions 1-0 at Balaídos back in October.

That win over Athletic is one of just three victories for Celta this season. Despite having a strong squad, the Galicians have struggled for positive results this season and currently find themselves in the midst of a relegation battle. Celta are winless in their last five matches and will be desperate for points when they visit San Mamés on Sunday.

Captain Hugo Mallo, Iván Villar, and David Juncà will all be unavailable for Celta while Néstor Araujo has made the squad after it was assumed that he would miss the match as well. New signing Jeison Murillo has also been called up though it’s unclear if he will start against Athletic.

Iker Muniain Celta

The return of Iker Muniain will be massive for Athletic (EC)

Meanwhile, Gaizka Garitano will also be without a few players. Unai Simón is still recovering from mumps while Gaizka Larrazabal and Oscar De Marcos are still nursing injuries. After missing training earlier in the week both Dani García and Raúl García have been cleared to play and are expected to start against Celta along with Iker Muniain. The big question at this point is whether or not Aritz Aduriz will be included in the squad. It should also be noted that Dani García and Unai López are both one yellow card away from suspension.

Athletic will be looking to build on impressive draws against Real Madrid and Sevilla where the team played well in two difficult away fixtures. Surprisingly, Sunday’s match will be the first game at San Mamés in over a month and the Lions are eager to give the fans an exciting victory and add three important points. Athletic have been very strong at home this season and will need to be at their best once again to stave off a desperate Celta side.

The first meeting back in October was a physical affair. Celta were able to dictate the pace of play and Athletic’s high press was ineffective. This time, Athletic must control the middle of the field and play with intensity to come away with three points. The Basques will also have to create chances which is where the return of Iker Muniain could be a key factor in the final result. Sunday’s match will be difficult but Athletic have the quality and confidence to seal a massive victory at home.

Projected Athletic Club XI: Iago Herrerín, Ander Capa, Yeray, Iñigo Martinez, Yuri Berchiche, Dani García, Unai López, Iñaki Williams, Iker Muniain, Ibai Gómez, Raúl García

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