Athletic Bilbao Preview
Traditionally a good team in Spain, and one of the very few in the world based solely on local players. All players are Basques and this fact gives them extra motivation and willing obedience. In the past two years, Athletic wasn't the team we used to know, after performing rather badly. This can be explained by the departure of their greatest talents and the lack of proper preparation from the coaching team. José Luis Mendilíbar made huge mistakes last year and the "blond" Javier Clemente managed to fix the situation. But he had his own problems with the president and resigned late in July. Athletic Bilbao are powerful in their home ground, the famous San Mames, but weak on the road. Still, this changed a bit over the last two years. Their formation usually is a 4-2-3-1 or a 4-4-2 (mainly away from home). Their big derbies are against Basque rivals Real Sociedad and of course Real Madrid. They have good relations with Barcelona, however, as do most of the Basque teams. They are among only three teams in Spain that were never relegated to the Segunda Liga (Real Madird and Barcelona being the others).
Players In: Félix Sarriugarte (Athletic B) Álex García (Racing B) Martins (Athletic B) Garmendia (Athletic B) Beñat (Athletic B) Iturriaga (Athletic B) Sarriegi (Alavés) Javi Martínez (Osasuna) Gabilondo (Real Sociedad) Players Out: Karanka (Colorado Rapids) Escalona Felipe Bordas Javier ClementeTransfers assessment:
Their new coach is Félix Sarriugarte who is a former Athletic player (1980's). In the last five years he was in charge of Athletic's youth teams. Some youth players were promoted to the A team and the new coach knows them. Some of them are about to shine as this phenomenon is not unusual in Bilbao. Sarriegi and Gabilondo will help in defence and midfield. From those who left, none was really important.
Even if Athletic did not strengthen as some other teams did, the postive fact is that they weren't weakened. The new coach is inexperienced at this level, but knows the staff and situation in Bilbao. Athletic are expected to do better than previous years, but they won't be a top level team. A place between 10-14 in the table.