Previewing Granada vs Athletic Club: Copa Del Rey Semifinal Second Leg
Athletic are one step away. One step away from a place in the Copa del Rey final for the first time in five years. One step away from a chance to lift the title for the first time since 1984. One step away from an opportunity to become Kings of the Cup once again. Only 90 minutes remain and the road to the final will run through Nuevo Estadio de Los Cármenes tomorrow night.
In the first leg at San Mamés the Lions dominated Granada, but only managed to score one goal. Athletic will take that narrow lead into the second leg while also holding the advantage of having prevented Granada from getting an away goal. With the tie far from over, one goal from either side will greatly shift the balance of power. A goal from Athletic would force Granada to need three goals in order to advance, though if the hosts score first they will have all the momentum at home.
There’s no doubting that Gaizka Garitano will field the strongest possible lineup against Granada, but there are a few questions that are uncertain at the moment. With Dani García suspended for the second leg the Mister must choose who will take the midfielder’s place as well as which formation to use. Over the past three months Athletic have played with three center-backs, though the return of the 4-2-3-1 over the weekend led to a terrific performance and victory over Villarreal.
Either way, Athletic have two ways in which they can approach the second leg from a strategic standpoint. The Basques can either choose to protect their 1-0 lead or risk conceding chances at the back by trying to score more goals. During Wednesday’s press conference at Lezama, Garitano hinted that Athletic will go on the attack in hopes to controlling the game and adding to their lead.
Iñaki Williams was a constant threat for Athletic in the first leg, especially on the counter attack. The forward’s pace will be needed to pull defenders out of position tomorrow night while Iker Muniain and Raúl García take on defenders in and around the box. As always, Ander Capa and Yuri Berchiche will play a significant role in the attack though Athletic will also be hoping to create more chances from set pieces.
At the other end, Granada managed to generate a number of opportunities at San Mamés as well. However, with Roberto Soldado unavailable for the second leg Diego Martínez will have to rely on other attacking options. With this being arguably the biggest game in Granada history Athletic will be expecting a hostile environment and an opponent ready to fight until the final whistle.
Both teams know what is at stake tomorrow night and are prepared to leave everything on the field. For Athletic, the dream of taking out La Gabarra for the first time in over three decades has everyone full of excitement but the team can’t look that far ahead. The Basques will leave for Granada in the morning as if going to war and hope to return home to Bilbao with the priceless reward of a place in the Copa del Rey final.
Projected Athletic Club XI: Unai Simón, Ander Capa, Yeray, Iñigo Martinez, Yuri Berchiche, Mikel San José, Mikel Vesga, Iñaki Williams, Iker Muniain, Iñigo Córdoba, Raúl García