Previewing Alavés vs Athletic Club: LaLiga Matchday 25
Athletic have spent the entire week preparing for Sunday’s trip to Alavés, which will be the team’s third straight Basque Derby, knowing that a victory will be the only acceptable result. While the Lions have made an incredible run in the Copa del Rey, their league campaign has been a completely different story over the past few months. Athletic have fallen all the way to 10th in the table and need to secure three points at Mendizorrotza to start climbing.
History certainly favors Athletic who have recorded 22 wins over Alavés and suffered just 4 losses in 31 total meetings. However, the Lions haven’t fared that well in Vitoria with just one win in the last four visits. Earlier this season, Athletic managed a 2-0 victory at San Mamés and tomorrow they will need another good performance to take the points back home to Bilbao.
Alavés trail Athletic by just four points in the table and have been in inconsistent form as of late. After picking up a big 2-1 win over Eibar two weeks ago, El Glorioso fell 1-0 to Mallorca on Saturday. A Victory over Athletic would lift Alavés closer to the top half of the table and further distance the team from the relegation battle.
Asier Garitano’s 4-4-2 system has brought mixed results so far this season. Alavés have conceded 36 goals to this point, one of the worst defensive numbers in the league, and have scored just 25 times. The forward partnership of Joselu and Lucas Pérez have combined for 18 of those goals and will be the biggest challenge for Athletic. While the statistics aren’t great, Alavés have managed to stay away from the bottom of the table.
Athletic’s need for a win cannot be overstated. The Lions have gone nine straight league games without a victory and are now in danger of falling into the bottom half of the table. In the midst of the winless streak Gaizka Garitano introduced a new formation with three center-backs which had added a new dimension to the team, though the results haven’t improved.
Following last weekend’s loss to Osasuna, Athletic will be getting back a number of key players. Iker Muniain and Dani García will be returning from suspension while Unai López has been cleared to play again following a thigh injury. Apart from Asier Villalibre and Oscar De Marcos who are both injured, Garitano will have the entire squad available and can field his strongest lineup at Mendizorrotza.
For Athletic to come away with all three points the Zurigorri must score goals. The Alavés defense will give up chances and Athletic have to take advantage of those opportunities. Keeping Lucas Pérez and Joselu quiet will also be a key to victory. If Garitano’s side are able to show their quality, both defensively and in attack, Athletic can finally snap the winless streak but doing so will take a very good performance at Mendizorrotza.
Projected Athletic Club XI: Unai Simón, Ander Capa, Yeray, Unai Núñez, Iñigo Martinez, Yuri Berchiche, Dani García, Mikel Vesga, Iker Muniain, Raúl García, Iñaki Williams