Sports Mole previews Sunday’s La Liga clash between Athletic Bilbao and Real Betis, including predictions, team news and possible lineups.
Real Betis will be bidding to make it five La Liga victories in a row when they head to San Mames on Sunday afternoon to take on Athletic Bilbao.
The visitors are currently third in the table, just one point behind second-placed Sevilla, while Athletic occupy 11th, having picked up 21 points from their opening 17 matches of the campaign.
Athletic have won four, drawn nine and lost four of their 17 league matches this season to collect 21 points, which has left them in 11th position in the table heading into the next set of fixtures in Spain’s top flight.
The Basque outfit are only three points off eighth-placed Barcelona but are without a win in the league since October 23, when they recorded a 2-1 victory over Villarreal on home soil.
Since the clash with the Yellow Submarine, Athletic have played eight times in Spain’s top flight, drawing five times and suffering three defeats, and they will enter this weekend’s contest off the back of a 1-0 home loss to Sevilla on December 11.
Marcelino‘s side have a difficult end to 2021, facing Real Betis and Real Madrid in back-to-back home matches, and they could easily find themselves sliding down the table with two disappointing results.
Real Betis, meanwhile, have performed above expectations in Span’s top flight this season, picking up 33 points from their 17 matches to sit third in the table, just one point behind second-placed Sevilla.
Manuel Pellegrini‘s side are nine points behind league leaders Real Madrid but have a four-point advantage over fifth-placed Real Sociedad and look capable of challenging for a top-four spot this season.
The Green and Whites, who finished sixth in La Liga last season, have won their last four league matches against Elche, Levante, Barcelona and Real Sociedad, beating the latter 4-0 last weekend.
Real Betis also managed to progress in the Copa del Rey on Thursday night, recording a 4-2 victory at Talavera, which made it seven wins from their last eight matches in all competitions.
El Glorioso also managed to finish second in their Europa League group behind Bayer Leverkusen, and the Spanish outfit have been drawn against Zenit St Petersburg in the next round.
Athletic Bilbao La Liga form:
Real Betis La Liga form:
Real Betis form (all competitions):
Athletic will again be missing Peru Nolaskoain, Yuri Berchiche and Asier Villalibre through injury, while Dani Vivian is unlikely to feature for the home side.
The Basque club will also be missing Dani Garcia due to the booking that the midfielder picked up against Sevilla, so there could be a spot in the middle of the park for Oier Zarragawhile Unai Simon and Inigo Martinez have tested positive for coronavirus and will therefore miss out.
Nico Williams and Raul Garcia should keep their attacking spots, while Inaki Williams and Iker Muniain are certainties to feature in the final third of the field.
As for Real Betis, Youssouf Sabaly and Paul Akouokou will miss the contest through injury, while Claudio Bravo and Victor Camarasa are doubts for the visitors.
As expected, Pellegrini rung the changes for Thursday’s Copa del Rey contest, but the likes of Sergio Canales, Juanmi, Willian Jose, Victor Ruiz and Andres Guardado will be back in the side here.
Alex Moreno scored twice from left-back against Real Sociedad last weekend, and the Spaniard will again be in the starting team, while Nabil Fekir will also retain his spot in attack.
Athletic Bilbao possible starting lineup:
Agirrezabala; Lekue, Alvarez, Nunez, Balenziaga; N Williams, Vencedor, Zarraga, Muniain; I Williams, R Garcia
Real Betis possible starting lineup:
Silva; Bellerin, Bartra, Ruiz, Moreno; Rodriguez, Guardado; Fekir, Canales, Juanmi; Willian Jose
We say: Athletic Bilbao 1-1 Real Betis
Real Betis are a team to be taken extremely seriously this season, and it will be fascinating to see if they are capable of claiming a top-four spot. Pellegrini’s side will be searching for their 11th league win of the season this weekend, but we are expecting draw Athletic specialists to hold the visitors here.
Our expert tipster partners at Sporita.com are predicting under 2.5 goals in this match. Click here to find out what else they are predicting for this game and for more of their tried-and-tested football tips.Under 2.5: data