Europa League: Athletic Club face their biggest test of the season in Marseille3 min read
Inconsistency main problem for Athletic
Kuko Ziganda hasn’t enjoyed the best of starts as the new Athletic Club coach, but to be fair, anyone who took over from Ernesto Valverde was damned either way.
The problem for Los Leones has been that when they’re good, they’ve been fantastic, but they’ve been so frustratingly inconsistent. And if a game has started to get away from them, Ziganda doesn’t appear to have the tools to stem the tide.
He’ll certainly have his work cut out against a Marseille side that have kept 21 clean sheets in all competitions this term. Furthermore, they’ve lost just once at home all season, and that was way back in September.
Marseille have weapons to hurt visitors
Rudi Garcia is likely to stick with an attacking 4-2-3-1 formation (mirrored by Athletic), within which Dimitri Payet will make a timely return. With his trickery and ability to play with both feet, he is going to cause problems for Oscar de Marcos and Unai Nunez all game long.
In midfield, Athletic’s Benat and Mikel San Jose will need to stop Morgan Sanson from breaking the lines and Andre-Frank Zambo Anguissa from dictating.
The hosts will dominate possession but that could suit Athletic with Inaki Williams utilising his pace to get forward on the counter attack and cause trouble against Jordan Amavi.
Will triple substitution gamble pay off?
Aritz Aduriz will get at least one decent chance and an away goal is crucial to give the Basques something to hold onto for the second leg.
Ziganda will at least be encouraged that in all of Athletic’s European games so far, bar two early group matches, the Spaniards have found the net at least once, but they’ll need to play much better than in their 2-0 weekend loss at Sevilla.
A triple substitution to rest starters for their European escapade could’ve had something to do with it, but that was made at half time, when arguably Athletic were still in the game.