Athletic Bilbao - HJK Betting Preview: Why a low scoring affair looks likely at Sam Mames

With the Basques having problems on and off the pitch, our Spanish expert Phil Kitromilides believes less than three goals will be scored tonight
After illuminating the Europa League last season with a brand of pressing, free-flowing football that won many plaudits if not titles, Athletic Bilbao find themselves in a spot of bother at the start of the new season.

Indeed their travails go back to the end of the last campaign which fizzled out disappointingly after such promise, with the Basques losing in the final of both the Europa League and Copa del Rey while finishing 10th in the Spanish top flight.

In the last nine competitive matches they have played from the end of the previous season to the beginning of the current campaign they have managed a solitary victory, and that was at home to Croatian minnows Slaven Koprivnica in the previous round of Europa League qualifying.

Added to their worrying form, is the uncertainty over the futures of their two star players Fernando Llorente and Javi Martinez both of whom missed the 5-3 home defeat to Real Betis on the opening weekend of the La Liga season.

All these factors then make the price of 1/5 (1.20) on an Athletic win this evening rather unappealing despite their lowly opponents from Finland. A victory for HJK Helsinki is priced at 14/1 (15.00) by Bet365 while the draw is offered at 5/1 (6.00).

Anything other than a win for the home side, despite their current malaise, would be a major shock, and the Finnish champions looked far from frightening opponents during their elimination from Champions League qualifying by Celtic 4-1 on aggregate. Yet the price for a home win is too small to invest in, and Athletic as mentioned have given little cause for confidence.

Instead back under 2.5 goals to be scored in the match available at the tempting price of 8/5 (2.60). If Fernando Llorente is unlikely to play in the match, the Basques' firepower will be considerably reduced.

New signing Aritz Aduriz is not in the same league as the Spain striker, while cult hero Gaizka Toquero puts in admirable effort yet rarely scores.

Four of the last six matches Athletic have played at San Mames have seen less than three goals, and this looks like a solid selection.

For a value bet, consider backing under 0.5 goals in the first half at 11/4 (3.75) which could provide some healthy returns.

Under 2.5 goals at 8/11 (1.72) with Bet365
Under 0.5 goals first half at 11/4 (3.75) with Bet365

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Phil Kitromilides is a sports broadcaster working on radio and TV in London and Madrid. You can also follow Phil on Twitter.