Athletic Club will officially begin their La Liga season on Sunday when they play hosts to newly promoted Getafe. The Madrid-based club are back after a one year hiatus and are fired up to get the new year underway. Historically the Lions have started very slowly domestically and new manager Kuko Ziganda wants to buck that trend at the San Mamés. It isn’t going to be an easy match so fans better strap in for another entertaining game for the Lions.
The La Liga season is finally here and on Sunday Athletic Club will host newly promoted Getafe at the San Mamés. The Lions have already been busy, playing in three Europa League games already, and find themselves warmed up and ready to go. Kuko Ziganda has made a couple of changes to the system over the summer, but Athletic still looks to be very much the same team that has qualified for European competition for four consecutive years. However, after a difficult 3-2 win in Athens on Thursday, Ziganda may choose to rotate some of his players which will be interesting to keep an eye on.
Meanwhile, Getafe are back in the Primera after a one year absence and are ready to get off to an exciting start. The Madrid-based club has signed nearly 20 players this summer so it is very difficult to predict how they will line up and what kind of problems they could create for Athletic. Danger man Dani Pacheco will miss the game due to injury, but everyone else is expected to be available. Either way, they still have quality players on the pitch such as Francisco Portillo and Markel Bergara. The first game back after promotion is normally hard fought and Athletic must be ready to do battle.
At a quick glance, history is not on Getafe’s side. They have lost all of their last six meetings with Athletic and haven’t won in the San Mamés since October of 2012. Take into account the fact that Athletic lost only two games at home all of last year and things look very difficult for Getafe. It is no secret that the San Mamés has become a fortress, but that doesn’t mean that Getafe won’t try to conquer it on Sunday. They know just how difficult this game will be.
Ziganda will have quite a decision to make regarding the starting lineup. Athletic just played three days ago and will host Panathinaikos in the return leg on Thursday. In total they will be competing in four games in eleven days so the new manager will need to rotate his players in some fashion. Of course, Kepa Arrizabalaga will start in goal, that is a guarantee. Apart from that it is really difficult making any sort of team prediction. Iker Muniain, Aymeric Laporte, and Mikel Vesga have all picked up knock in Greece and are doubtful to play on Sunday. Replacing all three will not be an easy task for Ziganda, especially with Ander Iturraspe still out with a muscle strain.
Tactically speaking, it will be paramount for Athletic to defend the wings against Getafe. With players like Portillo out wide there is always a possibility for danger. The Lions love to utilize the wide areas as well, but the fullbacks cannot afford to be caught too far forward consistently. There will have to be a balance to their runs so that they can keep the Getafe wingers in check. Luckily, Athletic’s midfield should be the stronger of the two and can be used to dictate pace of play and control possession at the San Mamés.
Conquering goalkeeper Vicente Guaita will also be a tall task for Athletic. The 30-year-old is an excellent shot stopper and has a knack of turning up in big matches. Over the last few seasons Athletic have struggled at times to finish chances and they can’t afford to begin the new season with the same issues. Ziganda’s men need to be lethal and take advantage of every opportunity they get if they are to put a few goals past Guaita on Sunday.
Predicting a winner for the season opener isn’t easy. On paper Athletic is the better side, especially since they are playing at the San Mamés. However, Getafe did just earn promotion back to the top flight and will be hungry. They are not going to give anything easy and will want to shock the La Liga world with a big win to start the season. In closing, Kuko Ziganda’s lineup changes could be the difference maker on Sunday and it will certainly be interesting to see what decisions he makes with a busy week ahead.
Projected Athletic Club XI: Kepa Arrizabalaga, Oscar De Marcos, Eneko Boveda, Xabi Etxeita, Mikel Balenziaga, Beñat, Mikel San Jose, Sabin Merino, Raúl García, Iñaki Williams, Aritz Aduriz