Injuries And Illness Plaguing Athletic’s Preseason

Athletic have been missing key players since the start of preseason (AC)

When the first team reported to Lezama two weeks ago to undergo medicals ahead of preseason training Athletic were given bad news. A total of six players tested positive for COVID-19 in the initial screenings and were sent home to isolate in accordance with the protocols in place. More bad news would follow.

In addition to the players testing positive, Yuri Berchiche and Peru Nolaskoain began preseason training with injuries. Berchiche is still carrying a groin issue which plagued him at the end of last season while Nolaskoain is recovering from a right ankle sprain suffered in the final week of his loan spell with Deportivo.

After a few days of training more players were sidelined. Iñigo Martínez has since suffered a hip injury and Ibai Gómez fractured his right clavicle. So far there’s no timeline on how long the pair will be out, although Gómez is expected to miss at least five weeks and it could be twice as long if surgery is needed. The injuries would be much easier to manage if not for the other absences.

With so many players unable to train, or only able to do so in a limited manner, Gaizka Garitano’s plans for the summer have had to constantly evolve. Bilbao Athletic’s Ander Iru, Ewan Urain, and Nico Serrano have all been called up to fill the squad in training, but getting the entire team ready for the start of the season will be a challenge.

Gaizka Garitano must get the team ready despite the absences (AC)

La Liga is scheduled to kick off in just over three weeks but injuries and illness have plagued Athletic’s preseason to this point. The team will play their first friendly of the summer on Saturday in a trip to Logroñés and Garitano will be without several key players.

The six that tested positive two weeks ago - Iñaki Williams, Unai López, Oihan Sancet, Unai Núñez, Gaizka Larrazabal, and Iñigo Córdoba - won’t be cleared in time for the friendly. In fact, the earliest they could hope to return would be for the match against Alavés on 2 September. Those carrying injuries will be unavailable as well, except for Yuri Berchiche who will be managing his groin problem but may not play anyway out of precaution.

Young players will benefit from the absences by having more minutes, though the ultimate purpose of friendlies is to get the team ready to start the season. In the days and weeks ahead those currently out of the team will be in a race for fitness as form as they return to training. It’s been an unconventional preseason to this point, but Gaizka Garitano is determined to have the team ready to compete on the opening day of the season which is just around the corner.

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