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Primera División

  • December 12, 2010
  • • 16:00
  • • Estadio San Mamés, Bilbao
  • Referee: Miguel Ángel Ayza Gámez
  • • Attendance: 35000
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La Liga Previews: Athletic Bilbao - Espanyol

La Liga Previews: Athletic Bilbao - Espanyol

Los Periquitos will attempt to maintain their good run at the home of los Leones...

Fortress

The strong home form of Athletic Bilbao has been enough to keep the Basque side on the fringes of the European race, and coach Joaquin Caparros will hope that his side’s abilities at San Mames again come to the fore when they meet with Espanyol on Sunday afternoon.

On their travels, los Leones have been weak, and this was highlighted last weekend when they went down 2-0 against near neighbours Real Sociedad. For the first time this season, Athletic failed to find the net, and they would pay a heavy price for a couple of defensive lapses.

“We had two poor moments in defence, which cost us the game. For the second goal, we gave up ourselves,” Caparros lamented. “They scored the first goal, and then decided to put up a wall defensively. This didn't allow us to attack as much as we would have liked.”

At home Caparros can rely on his side a good deal more. All of their last four home games have been won, and the only sides to have avoided defeat at la Catedral this season have been Atletico Madrid, who were in the flush of early season form, and Barcelona.

There is further heartening news for Athletic as they have not lost a goal in front of their own supporters since Zaragoza struck back in mid-October. Los Periquitos may be positioned well in the league, but at San Mames it will be the hosts who will be favourites.

Focus On The Now

Espanyol coach Mauricio Pochettino could barely have hoped for this season to start any better. With 14 matches played, the Catalan club sit fourth in the standings and go into the weekend’s fixture in the Basque Country under little pressure from those below as they command a four point cushion to fifth-placed Valencia.

At the Cornella-El Prat they’ve been especially imposing, commanding the best home record in the division with the exception of Real Madrid. Los Periquitos have won seven from seven in front of their home support, and this has been a clear source of strength.

Barcelona may loom in the near future, but the Argentine boss is focussing on Athletic first.

“He who enters the stadium thinking about the Barcelona match, would be better staying at home,” the coach told the media. “The next match is always the most important to us, and deserves all of our respect. The goal is clear, to take three points, and a great virtue of this team is that is always gives 100 per cent. “

On their travels Espanyol have not always enjoyed a good deal of luck this term, but misfortune is not the only factor to explain four league defeats in seven road matches. Only in two of their away fixtures have los Periquitos even managed to find the net, and against an Athletic side who have scored in each one of their home matches, that is a disturbing statistic.


TEAM NEWS

Athletic

Tendonitis threatens the presence of Pablo Orbaiz for the weekend’s match. Iraola is making progress with his hamstring problems but isn’t training fully yet.

Aitor Ocio and Koikili are both back training with the main body.

Espanyol

Felipe Mattioni remains a long-term absentee because of a knee problem. Javi Lopez will be missing for another fortnight because of a muscular issue, while Ernesto Galan, Coro and Ivan de la Pena are also giving the coach a headache.

Javi Marquez and Raul Baena are both suspended.

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Last Five Matches
Odds
Team News
Available Squads
1IraizozGoalkeeper
25KoikiliDefender
35AmorebietaDefender
6Mikel San José DomínguezDefender
15Andoni IraolaDefender
18Carlos GurpeguiMidfielder
8Javi MartínezMidfielder
14SusaetaMidfielder
19MuniainStriker
2ToqueroStriker
14Fernando LlorenteStriker
13Raúl Fernández MateosGoalkeeper
3AurtenetxeDefender
26Igor Martínez CaserasMidfielder
10Óscar De MarcosMidfielder
-David LópezMidfielder
11Igor GabilondoMidfielder
-OrbaizMidfielder
1Carlos KameniGoalkeeper
5Víctor RuizDefender
6Juan Daniel ForlínDefender
12Dídac VilàDefender
2ChicaDefender
10VerdúMidfielder
-Aldo Pedro DuscherMidfielder
-Jesús DátoloMidfielder
17Pablo Daniel OsvaldoStriker
10Luis GarcíaStriker
7José Callejón Striker
-Cristian AlvarezGoalkeeper
2Jordi AmatDefender
-Álvaro GarcíaMidfielder
-Iván AlonsoStriker
14David LópezMidfielder
9Sergio GarcíaStriker
-David GarcíaDefender
Players to Watch
Fernando Llorente
Fernando Llorente
Position: Striker
Squad Number: 14
Games Goals YC RC
0 0 0 0
Fernando Llorente remains the undoubted talisman of the Athletic Bilbao roster. The World Cup winner has scored regularly this season and is one player who doesn’t seem to be suffering from any kind of hangover after the summer’s festivities. Strong and powerful in the air, yet technically gifted, the 25-year-old is a striker who has it all.
José Callejón
José Callejón
Position: Striker
Squad Number: 7
Games Goals YC RC
0 0 0 0
Jose Callejon’s role in Espanyol’s offensive sector is likely to be key. The attacking midfielder is one of the important creative components of his side and if he has a strong game then the Catalans will be tough to stop. Given room, he can be a lethal force and Athletic will have to keep close tabs on the 23-year-old Real Madrid graduate.
Prediction
Espanyol are positioned a good deal better than Athletic in the league standings, but San Mames is not an easy venue to visit. Additionally, the men from Barcelona have a pretty poor record on their travels. Expect the four point gap los Periquitos have to the pack chasing Champions League football next season to shrink.

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Editor's Prediction
Bilbao 2

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