Preview: Athletic Bilbao vs Elche – prediction, team news, line-ups
Sports Mole previews Sunday’s La Liga clash between Athletic Bilbao and Elche, including predictions, team news and possible line-ups.
After losing pace in the race for the top six in the La Liga standings, Athletic Bilbao will be looking to return from the international break with a win when they host Elche on Sunday.
The hosts now find themselves eighth in the Spanish top flight, seven points behind sixth-placed Real Sociedad, while their visitors will aim to distance themselves further from the relegation threat.
With 34 points from their opening 23 games, Athletic Bilbao looked strong in the hunt for continental La Liga qualification, but they have since had to battle a series of inconsistencies.
MarcelinoMallorca’s men first suffered a 3-2 loss to struggling Mallorca, before bouncing back in eye-catching fashion with a 4-0 thrashing of top-flight Real Sociedad, but that high didn’t last long as they went on to be beaten by the same scoreline by Barcelona.
In keeping with their general lack of consistency recently, Athletic Club bounced back again with a home win against basement Levante, but they headed into the international break after back-to-back disappointing results, falling to a 1-0 defeat. -0 at the hands of Real. Betis and being held in a stalemate by Getafe, while Youri BerchicheThe goal of was just enough to force a share of the spoils.
After picking up just seven points in their last six top-flight outings, Los Leones have seen their standings slip in the European football race, now sitting seven points behind sixth-placed Real Sociedad.
With just nine league games to play, Marcelino’s side will know they must now put on an eye-catching run down the final stretch of the season to have any chance of closing that gap and sneaking into the top six.
They face a side from Elche who will be looking to boost their survival hopes even further, having recently enjoyed a climb.
Halfway through the season, Elche looked to be in real danger of falling with just 16 points from their first 19 games, but they have recently had an impressive turnaround.
Since mid-January, FrancisThe side have played 10 games in La Liga, claiming five wins and 16 points to double their tally and move out of the bottom three, with the most recent triumph coming at Granada before a narrow loss to Valencia and the following international. Pause.
Following what has been an inspired improvement, Los Franjiverdes now find themselves 14th in the Spanish top flight with a six-point drop zone lead, and, with nine games to go to defend that gap, they will be aiming to stretch their cushion on weekends.
Form of Athletic Bilbao in La Liga:
Athletic Bilbao form (all competitions):
Form of Elche in La Liga:
Athletic Bilbao enter the game without a central defender Yeray Alvarezwho will serve a suspension after picking up his fifth yellow card of the season before the break.
However, the Spain international Inigo Martinez may be able to return to the back line alongside Dani Viviane following an injury problem.
Inaki Williams continues to be a key man in attack, having scored seven goals and provided three assists in La Liga this season.
Elche have several suspensions to contend with after Johan Mojica was sent off last time out against Valencia, while the right-back Antonio Barragan received a fifth campaign yellow card.
Elsewhere, experienced midfielder Javier Pastor will continue to be lacking, with Omar Mascarell and Gerard Gumbau ready to play side by side in the engine room in his absence.
Lucas Boye has impressed since his summer departure from Turin, scoring seven goals in 22 La Liga appearances, and the Argentine will continue to lead the attack.
Possible starting line-up of Athletic Bilbao:
Simon; From Marcos, Vivian, Martinez, Berchiche; Berenguer, Vencedor, Mesga, Muniain; Williams, Garcia
Possible starting line-up from Elche:
badia; Palacios, Roco, González, Olaza; Milla, Mascarell, Gumbau, Fidel; Ponce, Boye
We say: Athletic Bilbao 2-1 Elche
While the two teams have gone in different directions recently, the recent break should have served as a reset for Athletic Bilbao, who will be desperate to get back into action with a win.
We think Marcelino’s men have the quality to turn the tide and see Elche at home.