Athletic vs Malaga: League’s biggest underachievers face off at San MamesFebruary 25, 2018
Athletic Bilbao and Malaga conjured up one of the thrillers of the season when they met at La Rosaleda in September with three goals apiece and a red card to boot.
However, since then, neither side has quite hit the same heights and both are languishing in the bottom half with a serious goalscoring problem.
Of course, things are much worse for Malaga who sit rock bottom, seven points from safety, ahead of what will be a key week in which they also take on Andalusian rivals Sevilla on Wednesday.
Their record on the road is especially woeful having lost ten of their last twelve away games, failing to score in nine of them.
For Athletic, however, San Mames has hardly been a fortress, drawing five of their last six league games there, meanwhile failing to score in their last three domestic games.
The last was a 2-0 defeat to Atletico Madrid at the Wanda Metropolitano, sandwiched between their two-legged Europa League tie against Spartak Moscow.
Thursday’s second leg in Bilbao, after which the Basques progressed 4-3 on aggregate, was blighted by the death of a policeman during violent clashes between ultras of the two sides so security will be stepped up for Sunday’s game and a moment’s silence observed.
The Basques’ Europa League progression should boost them coming into this tie, especially given that they will be taking on the bottom side.
Inigo Martinez and Mikel Balenziaga are doubts while Iker Muniain has been ruled out .
Malaga, who will be without Ignasi Miquel after his red card in the late capitalution against Valencia last week (1-2), could welcome back Miguel Torres from injury to cover in central defence. Zdravko Kuzmanovic, Borja Baston and Adalberto Penaranda remain ruled out through injury while captain Jose Recio and Samuel Garcia will face late fitness tests.
Athletic (4-2-3-1): Arrizabalaga; Marcos, Núñez, Yeray, Lekue; Etxebarria, José; Merino, García, Córdoba; Aduriz.
Malaga (4-4-2): Roberto; Rosales, Hernandez, Miguel Torres, Gonzalez; Keko, Iturra, Recio, Chory; En-Nesyri, Ideye.
WHEN AND WHERE?
This La Liga round 25 match will take place at San Mames on Sunday 25 February. Kick off is at 3.15pm UK time.