Los Rojillos are the latest side to go into los Leones’ den...
Humbled by Real Madrid last weekend, Athletic Bilbao will attempt to reassert themselves in the Primera Division by overcoming local rivals Osasuna, who have shown two distinct faces this season.
Los Leones travelled to the Bernabeu last weekend with some degree of hope that they could unseat Jose Mourinho’s charging Blancos, but they were tamed in a most emphatic manner by the Primera Division leaders. Twice they conceded in the opening half hour, and though Fernando Llorente briefly rekindled hope of a shock, Madrid would run out 5-1 winners.
“To achieve a positive outcome we had to be strong defensively, but we have not been at the level we needed to be,” coach Joaquin Caparros lamented after the game. “How can I be happy if we have conceded five?”
But there is a desire to quickly bounce back in this derby affair. “I have no doubt that you will be very complicated,” Pablo Orbaiz explained to Marca. “We know the derby is not worth nothing and is very special to both sides.”
If los Leones are to seriously compete in La Primera Division this season, their defence has a good deal of tightening up to do. Fuelled by Llorente, the offence has yet to be shut-out in league action this season, though the rearguard has leaked a worrying 23 times – more than any other club in the top flight aside from Malaga.
Osasuna’s route to a mid-table spot has been rather more unconventional than their weekend hosts’, who nevertheless only lie one point better off than los Rojillos. Jose Antonio Camacho’s men made a wretched start to the campaign but have bounced back in recent times, enjoying particularly strong form at home, even if they have been poor on the road.
At the Reyno de Navarra, Osasuna have scored seven times without conceding en route to three successive victories, but on their travels they have earned just one point all season, coming by way of a stale 0-0 draw against a Deportivo La Coruna side who were then in the heart of the relegation zone.
“It will cost us much, but we have to be hurt that everyone thinks we're going to lose,” Juanfran told Marca. “To win at Athletic we must play an almost perfect match.
“Away from home, something is always happening. The first thing to do is not to make any mistakes.
“We should be positive and ambitious. We cannot relax because if we lose two successive games we will go down.”
Osasuna are clearly trying to channel an underdog spirit in their camp, and if they can rouse themselves for this match they will gain a great deal of confidence for the campaign ahead. There is little to suggest that los Rojillos have the mentality to win at ‘La Catedral’, however.
Fernando Llorente has been prevented from training this week due to acute gastroenteritis, but that shouldn’t prevent him from featuring at the weekend.
Gaizka Toquero, Carlos Gurpegui, Fernando Amorebieta and Jon Aurtenetxe could all be involved in the starting XI too. Ustaritz (adductor) and Aitor Ocio (tendonitis) are both doubts.
Carlos Aranda faces a fortnight on the sidelines because of a muscular injury, while Damia Abella is a doubt due to a problem sustained on Thursday.
Walter Pandiani and Lolo are both expected to be involved from the outset.