Previewing Athletic Club vs Granada: Copa Del Rey Semifinal First Leg
The Copa del Rey final awaits. Athletic’s dream of lifting a 25th Cup title can be realized in April, but first there’s work to be done. To book their place in the final at La Cartuja, the Lions must eliminate Granada in the semifinals and the first leg will take Wednesday night at San Mamés where the atmosphere will be electric.
Athletic and Granada have met a total of 47 times, although never in the Copa del Rey, with the Basques recording 25 victories and 11 defeats. It’s been nearly six years since Athletic were beaten by Granada at San Mamés and the Basques have only suffered one loss to the Nazaríes in the last six matches. Athletic have won the previous three fixtures by a combined score of 7-2 but that means very little heading into Wednesday’s clash.
Granada earned their place in the Cup semifinals with an impressive run. After wins over L’Hospitalet, Tamaraceite, Badalona, and Badajoz, the Andalusians eliminated defending champions Valencia last weekend in a thrilling 2-1 win at Nuevo Estadio de Los Cármenes. Granada have played well overall this season and trail Athletic but just one point the La Liga table.
Diego Martínez will be expected to field the strongest possible lineup at San Mamés with Roberto Soldado leading the attack. Although Granada haven’t had any one forward providing a large amount of goals many players have contributed in the final third, but that could be a serious issue against Athletic. Apart from Cup matches, which have been against lower level competition, Granada have lost eight straight games away from home and have been held scoreless in last six of those.
Athletic’s run to the Cup semifinals has been full of excitement. Following easy wins over Intercity and Sestao River, the Lions had to survive penalty shootouts against Elche and Tenerife before eliminating Barcelona last week. The victory over Barcelona at San Mamés was a historic result and the atmosphere at the Cathedral will be sensational once again when Granda visit on Wednesday night.
There was concern that Athletic would be without Yuri Berchiche and Raúl García for the Cup match as both missed training earlier in the week. However, the pair rejoined the group on Tuesday and have been cleared to play. Gaizka Garitano will field his strongest lineup after resting a number of key players over the weekend with the goal of securing a big result in the first leg. It’s also important to note that Dani García, Iñigo Martinez, and Yuri Berchiche are all one booking away from suspension.
Playing at home should give Athletic an important advantage, but Granada also dream of reaching the Cup final. In the end, if Athletic are able to find success with their press and control the midfield they will be favorites to win the match and carry a lead into Andalusia. Chances will come for both sides and keeping a clean sheet will be just as important as scoring goals for the Zurigorri.
Projected Athletic Club XI: Iago Herrerín, Ander Capa, Yeray, Unai Núñez, Iñigo Martinez, Yuri Berchiche, Dani García, Mikel Vesga, Iker Muniain, Raúl García, Iñaki Williams