Los Leones will try to roar at home, but los Azulones have been no-one’s fools this season...
Lying in the middle of the Primera Division table, Athletic Bilbao have aspirations for greater success, but a somewhat disappointing start to the season at San Mames has prevented them from grasping a higher position. On Sunday they have the opportunity to address that problem to some extent when they meet Getafe at the intimidating Basque venue.
Generally considered one of Spain’s toughest away trips, twice los Leones have been defeated at home in the space of only four fixtures. Atletico Madrid claimed a 2-1 success at the venue, and that was followed up by a 3-1 defeat against Barcelona. Mallorca and Zaragoza have both been beaten at home, and should Athletic keep beating that grade of team, they certainly won’t drop too far down the standings.
Last weekend, Joaquin Caparros’ side were involved in one of the most dramatic games of the season to date. Trailing 3-0 away to Sevilla with little more than 15 minutes remaining, los Leones recovered to 3-2 but couldn’t quite complete the comeback, ultimately slipping to a 4-3 loss against 10 men in Andalucia.
Their fortunes picked up in midweek as they defeated the notorious Alcorcon side 1-0 on the road, giving them a real boost in their Copa del Rey campaign. But the league remains their main focus, and three points against los Azulones on Sunday is their top priority for the week.
After a somewhat sluggish start to the season, Michel’s Getafe are getting into their stride. The Madrid side won only one of their first four games of the campaign but have been buoyant since, claiming three successes in their last four.
Last weekend, el Geta made short work of Sporting de Gijon, smashing the Asturian side 3-0 to quickly get back to winning ways after a defeat against Atletico Madrid. Derek Boateng was the somewhat unlikely scorer of the opening goal just nine minutes into the game, and thereafter the hosts were well in charge. A penalty from Adrian Colunga and a strike from Ivan Marcano were enough to make the game safe.
But it’s not all been easy for the Madrid side in recent weeks. A midweek Copa del Rey match against Portugalete promised a routine win for the Primera Division side against the fourth flight unit. Adrian Sardinero struck early for the capital outfit, which was expected to prompt a collapse from their hosts. That never came, and a late goal would ensure that the minnows go into the second leg at the Coliseum Alfonso Perez with a real chance of qualification.
Having had their noses bloodied once already in the Basques Lands this week, Getafe won’t want to make it a double, though a 1-1 draw from a trip to San Mames would certainly seem an acceptable outcome. Last term, el Geta went unbeaten against los Leones, winning at home 2-0 and drawing away 2-2, giving them confidence ahead of the weekend.
Young left-back Jon Aurtenetxe was able to return to the squad for the midweek clash against Alcorcon, but Fernando Amorebieta and Aitor Ocio have not yet been able to overcome their injury problems and are not expected to do so before Sunday.
Ander Iturraspe and Koikili weren’t in the squad on Thursday for technical reasons but are highly likely to be involved come the weekend.
Michel has having something of an injury nightmare at the moment. Jaime Gavilan and Nico Pareja are the latest victims, having been ruled out for approximately three weeks each on Tuesday. Juan Albin is expected to replace Pareja.
Mario Alvarez, Miguel Torres, Mane and Javier Casquero are also on the sidelines for the weekend, making up a rather worrying number.
Cata Diaz, Rafael Lopez, Víctor Sanchez, Adrian Colunga and Manu del Moral all enjoyed a midweek rest.
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