Previewing Valencia vs Athletic Club: LaLiga Matchday 33
Qualifying for Europe hinges on Wednesday night’s trip to Mestalla. If Athletic leave with all three points the win would lift the team into the top seven of the table, but a loss would put the Lions five points back with difficult games on the horizon. A draw would do more harm than good because time running out. Athletic need a victory to move one step closer to Europe or risk falling out of the race.
Valencia may sit one point above Athletic in the table but Los Che have been in turmoil since the season resumed. After managing just one win in the last five games, Valencia sacked manager Albert Celades yesterday and named Voro as caretaker. It may seem like a move of desperation, but Voro has served in this role before and Valencia have won six of eight games under his leadership.
Changing managers at this point in the season comes with Valencia still in the race for Europe with just six games remaining. The club has already made it clear that finishing in the top seven is their goal as well and dropping points to Athletic would be unacceptable. Voro will look to take the team forward but will be without starting left-back José Gayà who is nursing an injury.
On the other hand, Athletic will enter Wednesday’s clash in much better shape. The Lions are coming off of a convincing 3-1 win over Mallorca and will have an extra day of rest. Gaizka Garitano will also have the entire squad available and is expected to field a very strong lineup.
Garitano will have a difficult decision to make in regards to the lineup. Oihan Sancet has started the last two games and has been impressive, but the Mister could choose to bring Iñigo Córdoba back into the team to provide balance against a dangerous Valencia attack. Either way, Garitano has plenty of options to choose from in what could be the most pivotal game of the season. Raúl García, Iñigo Martinez, and Córdoba will all have to be cautious as well with the trio one yellow card away from suspension.
The motivations for both teams is clear. A win would put either in control of the race for Europe, but history backs Valencia for a positive result. Athletic haven’t won at Mestalla since February of 2016 and have gone six straight games without a victory over Valencia, including four losses. Garitano’s side will have to overcome a poor run of form against Los Che to bring all three points back home to Bilbao.
Projected Athletic Club XI: Unai Simón, Ander Capa, Yeray, Iñigo Martinez, Yuri Berchiche, Dani García, Unai López, Iñigo Córdoba, Iker Muniain, Iñaki Williams, Raúl García