Sports Mole previews Sunday’s La Liga clash between Athletic Bilbao and Espanyol, including predictions, team news and possible lineups.
Athletic Bilbao will be looking to continue their impressive start to the 2022-23 La Liga campaign when they welcome Espanyol to San Mames on Sunday afternoon.
The home side are currently fourth in the table, boasting seven points from their opening three matches, while Espanyol are down in 16th, having collected just one point from their first three games.
Athletic finished eighth in La Liga last season, boasting 55 points from their 38 matches, and they will be looking to secure a similar spot this term, with a top-seven challenge a possibility.
Ernesto Valverde‘s side have made a strong start to the 2022-23 campaign, picking up seven points from their opening three matches, which has left them in fourth position in the table.
Athletic opened their season with a goalless draw against Mallorca before recording a 1-0 victory over Valencia on August 21; the Basque side then put four unanswered goals past Cadiz on August 29 in a strong performance.
Inaki Williams, Gorka Guruzeta and Alex Berenguer scored the goals at Estadio Nuevo Mirandilla, but the victory came at a cost, with the former picking up an ankle problem early in the second period.
The Lions, who will also face Elche and Rayo Vallecano before the September international break, recorded a 2-1 win over Espanyol in the corresponding match last season, while they have not lost a La Liga game to the Catalan side since November 2018.
Espanyol, meanwhile, opened their 2022-23 La Liga campaign with a 2-2 draw against Celta Vigo, but they have lost their two games since, going down 2-0 at home to Rayo Vallecano and 3-1 to Real Madrid.
A total of one point from three matches has left Diego Martinez‘s side in 16th position in the table, only one point more than basement side Cadiz, and their form is a concern ahead of difficult games against Sevilla and Real Sociedad before the international break.
Espanyol were relegated from La Liga at the end of the 2019-20 campaign but returned to the top level at the first time of asking and managed to finish 14th in Spain’s top flight last term.
The Catalan side have been active during the summer market and managed to secure Martin Braithwaite‘s signature on the transfer deadline day following his release from Barcelona.
Espanyol had the second-worst away record in Spain’s top flight last season, picking up just nine points from 19 matches, recording only one victory in the process.
Athletic Bilbao La Liga form:
Espanyol La Liga form:
Athletic will again be without the services of Inigo Martinez, Yuri Berchiche and Mikel Balenciaga for this weekend’s contest through injury.
Meanwhile, the ankle problem that Inaki Williams picked up against Cadiz will rule him out, so the forward’s run of appearing in 236 consecutive La Liga matches is set to come to an end against Espanyol.
Guruzeta, who scored a brace off the bench last time out, is expected to come into the starting side, with the 25-year-old likely to lead the line with support from Iker MuniainBerenguer and Nico Williams.
Nor for Espanyol, Sergio Gomez and Benjamin Lecomte will be missing on Sunday through suspension, meanwhile Adria Pedrosa and Paul Lozano will be absent through injury.
Lecomte’s spot is expected to be taken by Joan Garciawhile there could be a spot in central midfield for Keidi Barewho came off the bench in the defeat to Real Madrid.
Braithwaite is in line to make his debut for the Catalan club, but he is yet to play this season, so the experienced attacker is likely to be among the substitutes rather than in the first XI.
Athletic Bilbao possible starting lineup:
Simon; De Marcos, Vivian, Yeray, Lekue; Sancet, Vesga; N Williams, Muniain, Berenguer; Gruzeta
Espanyol possible starting lineup:
Garcia; Gil, Calero, Cabrera, Olivan; Sanchez, Edu, Bare, Darder, Puado; Joselu
We say: Athletic Bilbao 2-1 Espanyol
Espanyol are better than what they have shown this season, but Athletic have been impressive, and we are expecting the hosts to triumph on Sunday. Inaki Williams’s absence is a blow for the Basque side, but they should have enough quality to secure all three points.
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