Athletic Club will be looking to pick up three vital points on Saturday when they travel to take on Malaga at La Rosaleda. Two straight losses have the Lions needing a big win away from home, but is isn’t going to be easy. Malaga have yet to earn a single point in La Liga play and are desperate to right the ship in front of their own fans. Kuko Ziganda will have his team focused and ready for a battle and this is a game that fans definitely won’t want to miss.
Saturday’s game is going to be very important for Athletic Club moving forward. After going unbeaten in their first eight games of the season, the Lions have lost their last two and are in real need of securing three vital points in a tough away match. Defense has been the strong suit for Kuko Ziganda’s side, but their offense has struggled at times, scoring only four goals so far domestically. If Athletic can get back to their winning ways against Malaga they could jump back into the European zone, but a loss could see them fall into the bottom half of the table.
If this was a must-win game for Athletic, it is definitely much more so for Malaga. Míchel’s side have not earned a single point so far this season and have scored only one goal so far. On the flip side, they have conceded eleven goals and are really struggling defensively. Playing at La Rosaleda, Malaga will be looking to secure their first victory of the year in front of their own fans and followers of La Liga should know just how hard it is to win in that stadium. To put that into perspective, Athletic have only won two of their last six trips to La Rosaleda.
As has been the case for a while now, Athletic will still be without Oscar De Marcos and Mikel Rico who are still nursing ankle injuries. In the brightest news of the week, Yeray was officially announced to be cancer free once again, but has not yet returned to full training. Aritz Aduriz did have some discomfort during Wednesday’s loss to Atletico Madrid but all signs point to him starting against Malaga, as should the rest of the strongest lineup available. There are still some rotational moves that are unknown, but it wouldn’t be surprising to see Ziganda with his best available team.
Tactically speaking, this is definitely going to be an interesting game. Malaga has shown several weaknesses so far this year that Athletic Club should be able to exploit. First, they have had a lot of issues dealing with attacks down the wings and with aerial duels in the box. Both of these areas are major parts of Athletic’s attacking style and will likely be utilized as much as possible on Saturday. Fans should expect Iñaki Williams and Iker Muniain to really stretch the defense and pull players out of position for Aritz Aduriz to get more chances in the box.
Something else that Athletic will have to watch out for is Malaga’s offside trap. They do this very well and it can really disrupt a team’s rhythm and flow in attack. Raúl García, Iñaki Williams, and Aritz Aduriz can all have problems staying onside at times and they will need to do a good job of holding up their runs if they want to get the best looks in front of goal. Beñat’s passing and creativity will also be tested as he will have to navigate his free kicks and through balls in a way that keeps the offensive attacks alive against the offside trap.
On paper this a game that Athletic Club should win and they definitely need to as well. Three points would get the Lions back on the right track and fans will not settle with anything less. However, Malaga is sure to be desperate for a win at this point and that makes them dangerous, especially at home. Kuko Ziganda and company need to be ready for a real fight that could see anything happen. If Athletic are able to impose their style and rhythm they should be able to come away with a victory, but this isn’t going to be an easy game by any means.
Projected Athletic Club XI: Kepa Arrizabalaga, Iñigo Lekue, Unai Nuñez, Aymeric Laporte, Mikel Balenziaga, Beñat, Mikel San José, Iker Muniain, Raúl García, Iñaki Williams, Aritz Aduriz