Levante – Athletic previewBy: Jack | May 11th, 2012
Sunday 13th May 2012 20:00 local time
After the disappointment in Bucharest, the Lions play their final league game of the season.
Obviously with reaching two cup finals but not consistently taking that form into the league, La Liga has fallen down in the list of priorities for Athletic this season. We qualified for Europe in February (by reaching the Copa del Rey final) and fell behind in the top 4 chase, so recent league encounters have been for pride only.
Our opponents however can still complete the most unlikely of seasons. With one of the smallest budgets in the division and widely tipped for relegation, they stunned Spanish football by topping the table early on in the season. The usual suspects (i.e. Madrid and Barcelona) soon reclaimed the top 2 but Levante held their form.
A place in the top 6 would surely only be temporary the experts kept insisting… however Levante are still up there, even if their form has dipped in the past month or so. A quite incredible Champions League place is still possible, though unlikely, but with an Europa League more achievable the Valencian side will be wanting all three points.
Athletic could get as high as 6th with a win but a loss could see them drop as low as 12th. Irrelevant of other results a win will move Athletic above Levante due to the head-to-head records.
The players will still be tired and mentally drained after midweek and normal circumstances would likely see a much changed team for this fixture. However with a two week break until the Cup final Bielsa may decide to play the first team to keep them fresh. It would also boost confidence and morale to come into that game off the back of a victory.
Iraola – Javi Martínez – Ekiza – Aurtenetxe
Susaeta – Muniain – De Marcos – Ibai
In other news, ex-boss Joaquin Caparrós takes his Mallorca side to the Bernabeu with a chance of clinching an European place. He has guided his team to five league wins in the past six games (with the only defeat coming at San Mamés ), and another against the already crowned Champions would confirm a place in the top six. Good luck Jokin!