Athletic Bilbao - Schalke Preview: Bielsa's men targeting second-leg victory after 4-2 success in Germany
The Basques can edge closer to European glory at San Mames, with much of the hard work accomplished in Gelsenkirchen in the first leg of their tie with the Royal Blues
By Enis Koylu
Iraola, Ekiza, Martinez, Aurtenetxe
Perez, De Marcos, Herrera
Susaeta, Llorente, Muniain
Uchida, Matip, Papadopoulos, Escudero
Farfan, Raul, Obasi
Having rested several key plays for Saturday's defeat to Barcelona, Marcelo Bielsa should reincorporate the likes of Ander Herrera, Iker Muniain and Fernando Llorente. Ibai Gomez and Gaizka Toquero are likely to settle for a place on the bench, while Ander Iturraspe and Fernando Amorebieta are suspended for this game.
For Schalke, Lars Unnerstall should make his European comeback, having surprisingly started against Hoffenheim on Sunday. However, fellow goalkeepers Ralf Fahrmann and Timo Hildebrand remain sidelined.
Benedikt Howedes and Christoph Metzelder are still injured and Huub Stevens will be without left-back Christian Fuchs, who is ill. In midfield Lewis Holtby is in with a chance to replace Marco Hoger, who disappointed in the 2-4 loss to Athletic Bilbao. As well, Stevens has decided to give left-winger Julian Draxler a rest during Thursday's match.
||DID YOU KNOW?|
- Athletic Bilbao have won all of their last four Europa League games.
- The last time a German side played at San Mames Werder Bremen ran out 3-0 winners against the Basque outfit in 2009.
- However, Bilbao, since losing to Thomas Schaaf's side, have not lost any of the seven subsequent home games in Europe.
- Schalke striker Klaas-Jan Huntelaar (pictured right) has scored a hat-trick in both of the last two rounds, but failed score in the first leg.
- He scored twice in a 5-2 win at San Mames in 2009, when playing for Real Madrid.
- The Royal Blues kept a clean sheet in all of their away games in the group stage, but have failed to win on their European travels since.
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Top 3 Predictions
Athletic Bilbao 3-1 Schalke 04
- 14.42 %
Athletic Bilbao 2-1 Schalke 04
- 13.78 %
Athletic Bilbao 2-0 Schalke 04
- 11.06 %
|UEFA Europa League (EL)||Apr 5, 2012||Athletic Bilbao 2 - Schalke 04 2|
|UEFA Europa League (EL)||Mar 29, 2012||Schalke 04 2 - Athletic Bilbao 4|
|Dec 1, 2013||Athletic Bilbao 1 - FC Barcelona 0||LIGA|
|Nov 25, 2013||Malaga 1 - Athletic Bilbao 2||LIGA|
|Nov 9, 2013||Athletic Bilbao 2 - Levante 1||LIGA|
|Nov 3, 2013||Atletico Madrid 2 - Athletic Bilbao 0||LIGA|
|Oct 31, 2013||Athletic Bilbao 2 - Elche 2||LIGA|
|10||Óscar De Marcos||Midfielder|
|13||Raúl Fernández Mateos||Goalkeeper|
|6||Mikel San José Domínguez||Defender|
|19||Chinedu Ogbuke Obasi||Striker|
|17||Jefferson Agustin Farfán||Striker|
The 24-year-old provided a constant threat down the right in the first leg, setting up two of his side's goals. With the attack-minded Christian Fuchs likely to pour forward as Schalke search for a route back into the tie, Susaeta could be the man to kill off the Germans' challenge, thanks to his craft and pace on the wing.
He just doesn't seem to fade away, does he? After an all-action performance in the first leg which saw the veteran Spaniard touted with an unlikely potential recall to the Spain squad, all eyes will be on Raul. The 34-year-old scored on his first return to Spain, when Schalke drew with Valencia last season, and his skill and experience could be exactly what Huub Stevens' men need to turn this tie around.
Despite the convincing nature of the scoreline in Gelsenkirchen a week ago, Athletic Bilbao were hardly the dominant team against Schalke, who would have got more from the match, were it not for some defensive lapses. I'd expect the second leg to be a far tighter affair, but, with the tie all but decided in the first encounter, I'd expect the hosts to edge through to the semi-finals without needing to leave first gear.
Times In BST
Live Final scheduled Suspended Cancelled Postponed