Athletic Bilbao are in search of a top-six finish
The 2016/17 season was disappointing for Athletic Bilbao, where they finished 7th place in LaLiga. Cypriot side Apoel Nicosia ended Atheltic’s European aspirations in the Round of 32. Athletic Club are steeped in history. They have won the Spanish title eight times and the Copa del Rey an impressive 24 times. Only Barcelona have won it more times (29). Athletic Club have never been relegated. Barcelona and Real Madrid and the only other Spanish teams that can boast such a record. English managers Fred Pentland and William Garbutt led Athletic Club to league titles in the 1930s. The Basque club were last crowned La Liga champions in the 1983/84 season.
José Ángel Ziguanda steps into the breach as head coach, replacing Ernesto Valverde, who is now in the hot-seat at Barcelona. Ziguanda made over 250 appearances for Athletic Club between 1991-1998 and previously managed Athletic’s ‘B’ Team, from 2011. Athletic’s ‘Basque-only’ policy has evolved and players are now scouted from beyond the traditional territory. Yeray Alvarez and forward Iñaki Williams are among a number of first team players who have been developed by the club’s highly-rated academy. Williams is a target for Italian club Roma. ‘Yeray’ is currently undergoing treatment for cancer – we wish him well.
Aritz Aduriz is the veteran of the squad. Last season he scored 16 goals from 27 starts and is likely to lead the line once again. Athletic get their season underway with the visit of newly promoted Getafe. The San Mamés can be a daunting place for any visiting side.
video courtesy of @nottinghamowl
Athletic’s competitive season is already underway in the Europa League, 3rd qualifying round. Defender, Aymeric Laporte scored an all-important away goal in the 1-1 draw against Dinamo Bucharest. Athletic put the tie to bed with a 3-0 win at the San Mamés, Garcia (2) and Arduiz were on the scoresheet. Williams socred Athletic’s only goal in the 3-1 friendly, away to Liverpool.
Basque derby games
Matchday 16, on 17 December brings us the first meeting between Athletic Club and Real Sociedad, with the second game scheduled for Matchday 35.
Player to watch Raúl García
Raúl García can play in a central midfield role, or just behind the front players. The 31-year-old played 34 league games last season, scoring 10 goals. He didn’t always play 90 minutes under Valverde. Garcia is technically sound. Last season he scored an unstoppable 25-yard thunderbolt against Deportivo.
Featured image property of In The Stand Sport and courtesy of @P7Owl