It’s become common practice for Athletic to play at least one friendly during international breaks in order to stay competitive and work on areas of improvement. With club football currently at a stoppage for two weeks, the Lions have continued that trend. Athletic took the opportunity to participate in a friendly tournament on Thursday hosted by Barakaldo at Lasesarre where several players were able to enjoy important minutes.
The first match saw Athletic face off with Alavés in a 45 minute match with a starting lineup of Iago Herrerín, Oscar De Marcos, Unai Núñez, Yeray, Mikel Balenziaga, Mikel Vesga, Unai López, Gaizka Larrazabal, Iker Muniain, Iñigo Córdoba, and Aritz Aduriz. As expected, the Zurigorri were the better side and dominated play but struggled to create any real chances in front of goal.
Athletic would eventually open up the scoring in the 28th minute when De Marcos did well to create space out wide and found Larrazabal inside the box. The 21-year-old settled and beat the keeper with a low shot to give Athletic a deserved 1-0 lead. It would prove to be the only goal of the match and saw the Lions take all three points in the opening fixture.
Hosts Barakaldo would play Athletic in the last match of the tournament with Garitano making several changes to the lineup. Herrerín, Núñez, Larrazabal, and Córdoba were the only players to stay on the pitch and were joined by Iñigo Lekue, Dani Vivian, Cristian Ganea, Mikel San José, Beñat, Kenan Kodro, and Asier Villalibre. Once again, Athletic were the better side but this time neither team was able to find the back of the net and the game ended in a scoreless draw.
With Barakaldo and Alavés drawing against each other, Athletic were named champions of the tournament with four points from their two games. Karmelo Robredo, president of the veterans association, presented Mikel San Jose with the trophy after the match. Players such as Larrazabal, Ganea, and Vivian all took advantage of the opportunity and put in good performances at Lasesarre while Garitano was able to test a few different concepts in the friendlies.
Athletic will be back in training at Lezama on Friday as the team continues preparing for next Sunday’s match against Real Valladolid. The Zurigorri will be eager to put an end to their losing streak and keep pace near the top of the table with a big win at San Mamés.