Athletic Club vs Real Sociedad: A decisive Basque Derby with 10 matchdays to go
With only 10 matchdays remaining this LaLiga Santander season, every match becomes even more important and every point becomes even more satisfying, especially if secured in a derby and if the points help a club to achieve their objectives for the season. This will be on the minds of Athletic Club and Real Sociedad when they meet at San Mamés this Saturday for the next edition of the Basque Derby, the 152nd in the history of Spain’s top division. The balance has been very even over the years, as there have been 60 wins for the Bilbao side, 52 for the team from San Sebastián and 39 draws.
A derby is always an extra special game, but in this case even more so because both clubs are fighting for European qualification. Real Sociedad have been in the Champions League places for five months, a position they have held since November 9th and one they don’t want to let go of in the final 10 fixtures. Imanol Alguacil’s men just beat Getafe CF last weekend, meaning they do enter derby week with some momentum after a poor run of results.
As for Ernesto Valverde’s Athletic Club, who were recently eliminated in the semi-finals of the Copa del Rey, they still harbour hopes of returning to Europe, either by chasing down Real Betis, who are five points ahead, or by locking up seventh place, as this would grant access to the Conference League if the Copa del Rey final is won by Real Madrid.
Athletic Club want revenge
In the first meeting between these neighbours this season, Real Sociedad won 3-1 and celebrated a Mikel Oyarzabal goal, his first in almost a year, following his serious knee injury. With that win, Imanol can boast of having beaten Athletic Club in six of his 10 meetings with them, having suffered just two defeats and two draws. However, the Real Sociedad coach doesn’t have such a strong head-to-head record against Ernesto Valverde given that he beat Imanol twice and drew once when he coached FC Barcelona.
A duel between national team colleagues
The match will bring together many of the players who are in the senior and U21 Spain squads. Unai Simón, Julen Agirrezabala, Iñigo Martínez, Oihan Sancet, Nico Williams, Martín Zubimendi, Mikel Merino, Mikel Oyarzabal and Jon Pacheco have all represented their country of late, so know each other well from their time as teammates, while many of these players have also competed in this rivalry many times over the years.
Two of these players, Mikel Merino and Nico Williams, are among the attacking leaders in the competition. The Real Sociedad midfielder is the player with the most assists in LaLiga Santander, with eight, while the younger Williams brother is second for the most dribbles, with 64, behind only Vini Jr.
All of this means that this Basque Derby will showcase players with lots of potential and two coaches with strong ties to their teams, while the game will take place at a time when both sides need the three points on offer at San Mamés. These are the perfect ingredients for an exciting derby on the matchday that kicks off the final stretch of the season, with just 10 rounds to go.