Athletic Bilbao and Real Sociedad fans could have hardly wished for a better return from international break as their beloved teams head into the highly anticipated Basque Derby on Sunday afternoon, keen to record a morale-boosting win and claim bragging rights that could kick-start their respective campaigns.
Bilbao plagued by injuries
Athletic Bilbao have recovered from their slow start to the new 2016-17 season and are returning to action on the back of four wins in their last five matches in all competitions. Basque Derby is a great chance for Ernesto Valverde’s men to return to winning ways as they suffered a 2-1 Malaga blow just before the break at the beginning of October. Despite opening the scoring through Aritz Aduritz after only three minutes, Bilbao failed to hold on to the lead in the closing stages of the game as Malaga fought hard to claim a huge win thanks to goals from Ramirez and Duda. Despite the disappointing set-back, the Basque are sitting in sixth place in the standings only three points short of leaders Atletico Madrid and Valverde’s team will be highly motivate to grab a win over local rivals that could help them make an additional step towards the top four. It will be easier said than done as hosts will be forced to deal with a long list of unavailable players, who won’t be able to help the team against Real Sociedad.
Ager Aketxe is yet to make his debut this season due to problems with injury, while he will now be joined by Boveda and Kepa in the treatment room. Inaki Williams and de Marcos are also unavailable for selection with fitness problems, while Balenziaga is suspended for the occasion.
Lack of consistency
Consistency remains the biggest problem for Real Sociedad this season. The Royals have been alternating between wins and losses over the last couple of weeks, losing three and drawing as many games after seven La Liga rounds in the new season. Eusebio Sacristan has found it hard to gain footing at San Sebastian and is facing early pressure as Real Sociedad boss. Contrary to their Sunday’s rivals, Real Sociedad are heading into the big Basque Derby on the back of a hard-fought 1-0 win over Real Betis, which will have surely played wonders for Sacristan men’s confidence. Real Sociedad have a good record against Athletic Bilbao at San Mames, having won two and drawn two of the last four visits with their last defeat at the hands on Athletic away coming all the way back in 2012. Sacristan’s side will be hoping for a similar outcome this time out as they look to close the two-point gap between their Basque rivals at the La Liga table.
Agirretxe and Tono remain sidelined with injured which have prevented them from making a single appearance this season. Yuri, Carlos Martinez and Markel Bergara complete the list of players manager Sacristan will be unable to call upon.
The Basque Derby tends to be a close-knit competition and we are fairly certain that such one will be at display on Sunday afternoon as well. Low on goals and high on pressure and anxiety, meetings between Athletic Bilbao and Real Sociedad have not exceeded a 2.5 goals margin with eight of the last nine meetings.
Top pick: Under 2.5 goals 1.67 (4/6) @Bet365
Alternative pick 1: Draw 3.6 (13/5) @PaddyPower
Alternative Pick 2: Both teams to score – No 1.83 (5/6) @BetVictor