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La Liga: Football In The Basque Country Means Everything


La Liga: Football In The Basque Country Means Everything

Athletic Bilbao vs Real Sociedad

The penultimate La Liga match of what has been a disruptive, dreadful and, in some cases, a tragic 2020.

If anything, though, those factors mean this Basque derby is more important than ever.

For there’s something special about Basque football and about this derby in particular.

The Basque derby means the bertso derbi too, sport as song and song as sport. Competitive, improvised street poetry: witty, incisive and theirs.

Even opposing fans sit together!

Basque passion has been well documented on this website so many of you will know this is so much more than a clash between the sides currently in 10th and third place.

Talking Points

New Year’s Eve La Liga highlights are likely too.

Peru Nolaskoain should be the only absentee for the home team who have been inconsistent of late, but did take a hard-earned point against an in-form Villarreal last time out.

In addition, the hosts have lost just one of their last five home matches, with that solitary defeat coming versus Celta Vigo.

One-time league leaders Real Sociedad aren’t exactly in a great run of form themselves and in their last outing, three days before Christmas, were given a reminder of what it takes to stay in the title race as new leaders Atletico Madrid overcame them with two second half goals.

Indeed, they are without a victory in their last nine games, but have recovered some key men from injury lay-offs over Christmas.

The good news for the visitors is that Mikel Oyarzabal is reportedly fully fit after a muscle problem and should start on the left wing. Aritz Elustondo is also available and should partner Robin Le Normand at centre-back ahead of Igor Zubeldia.

Former Manchester City star David Silva will be deployed in the middle of midfield, while Willian Jose is likely to be preferred to Alexander Isak up front.

For Athletic Bilbao, Asier Villalibre has been passed fit this week after injury, although Inaki Williams – who has a good record in this derby – could still lead the line for the home side.

Mikel Vesga is expected to partner Unai Vencedor at the base of midfield, with Dani Garcia taking a seat on the bench.

Alex Berenguer should be fit after missing some group training and will start on the left wing.

He has been one of their best players so far this term after his signing from Italian club Torino and has shown glimpses of what he can do with Los Leones. Berenguer’s relationship with Yuri Berchiche down Athletic’s left-hand side has been a key weapon for them and could be again.

If you enjoy this fixture by the way, just wait until fans are present.

This will also be the Copa del Rey Final next April, postponed from last season due to Covid-19

History

The balance of power has been fairly equal in these clashes in recent years.

Last season, Bilbao won the corresponding fixture, triumphing 2-0 at San Mames, courtesy of goals inside the first 28 minutes from Williams and Raul Garcia.

The return in February was won by Sociedad when Portu and Isak scored to cancel out William’s equaliser in a 2-1 success.

Two seasons ago Sociedad won 3-1 in Bilbao when Mikel Oyarzabal (two) and Luca Sangalli were the goal-getters.

However, Sociedad have won just three times out of their last 16 away encounters with Bilbao in all competitions

Betting Tip

1X2 Draw @ 3.00

Sociedad are slight favourites with the SBOTOP La Liga betting odds and can be tipped 1X2 @ 2.69 and with Asian Handicap odds @ -0.25 @ 2.28. Form can often go out of the window in a derby, however, with Bilbao available 1X2 @ 2.84 or Asian Handicap -0.25 @ 2.47.

If you expect a repeat of this match last season – correct score 2-0 – a pay day of @ 14.50 awaits.

I expect a close contest and I also expect goals and have considered total goal 2-3 @ 1.91 and even 4-6 @ 5.00. I almost plumped for over 2.25 goals @ 2.13.

Disclaimer: Odds are correct at time of publish.

 

 


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