Previewing Bilbao Athletic vs Badajoz: Promotional Playoffs First Round
Bilbao Athletic’s first season under manager Joeseba Etxeberria has been a roaring success. The Kumeak finished third in the Group II table, scoring more goals than any other team in Segunda B while overcome a plethora of injuries. Now, Bilbao Athletic will have a shot at promotion.
By finishing in the top four of the table the Kumeak qualified for the promotional playoffs which will begin this weekend. Bilbao Athletic only need to win three straight games to move up and it all starts on Saturday with a match against Badajoz at Nuevo Mirador.
Badajoz are looking to return to the Segunda for the first time since 2003 when they were relegated following an eleven-year stay in the Second Division. This season Badajoz have been a strong side, finishing third in their respective table and eliminating Eibar from the Copa del Rey in the Round of 32.
Although these two sides are unfamiliar with one another, it will be a special game for Gorka Santamaria who came up through Lezama and helped lead Bilbao Athletic to promotion back in 2015. Santamaria leads Badajoz with 10 goals this season. Badajoz play a traditional 4-4-2 formation and are a balanced team that will make things difficult for Bilbao Athletic.
Fortunately for Etxeberria, nearly the entire squad will be available for Saturday’s match. For most of the season the Kumeak have dealt with injuries and often had to play without a true center-forward. This time Gorka Guruzeta, Ewan Urain, and Andoni Tascón will be available to the Mister. Etxeberria will finally have more options in attack.
Top scorers Jon Morcillo and Juan Artola will be expected to start on either side of the front line with Unai Vencedor anchoring the midfield. Due to the first team being knocked out of the race for Europe, Oihan Sancet and Dani Vivian will be in the squad and both will likely make the lineup for this pivotal match.
Defeating Badajoz will be challenging, especially considering that neither side has played a meaningful game of football since before the break. To come away with a victory Bilbao Athletic will have to do what they do best, overwhelm their opponent. Joseba Etxeberria’s side are great at pressing high up the field and forcing turnovers which they can quickly turn into goal. It will be a tight game, but Bilbao Athletic have the quality to win and advance to the next round.
Bilbao Athletic Projected XI: Jokin Ezkieta, Jesús Areso, Jon Sillero, Dani Vivian, Imanol García de Albéniz, Unai Vencedor, Oihan Sancet, Oier Zarraga, Juan Artola, Gorka Guruzeta, Jon Morcillo