Two La Liga outfits in Athletic Club and Sevilla meet in the quarter-finals of the Europa League at the San Mames.
The home side, Athletic Club, have been fantastic in the Europa League this season as they have lost only two times in the competition. Athletic’s Aritz Aduriz is the top goal scorer of the tournament so far leading with eight goals and he will want to continue his on with his record so far ahead of the Sevilla game. Aduriz played a key part in Athletic qualifying for this stage of the tournament with the Spaniard picking up a consolation goal against Valencia at the Estadi de Mestalla. However, this consolation was the vital away goal to help Athletic go through.
Sevilla will be hoping they can keep up their form in the Europa League, despite an awful campaign in the Champions League this season. The club have become truly in love with the Europa League, with a back-to-back during the 2013/14 and 2014/15 season. An interesting fact is that this side have been the most successful club to win this competition and the first time was back in 2006. They have won it four times from 2006 to 2015. Kevin Gameiro will be the main player to look out from the side, the Frenchman already has over 20 goals this season.
Athletic Club have won their last five home matches against Sevilla in all competitions. Meanwhile Sevilla have kept a clean sheet in five out of their last seven matches in the Europa League. Also Athletic Club have had the lead during half time and full time in their last three home matches against Sevilla in all competitions. Sevilla’s away form has been embarrassing for the side this season, they still yet to win their first away game in La Liga.
Ernesto Valverde’s side will be expected to carry on with their 4-2-3-1 formation, but this will be their first big test without the injured Aymeric Laporte. Carlos Gurpegi will be expected to carry on as Laporte’s replacement at centre-back which he did so on the weekend against Granada. Good news for Athletic, they will have a fully fit Inaki Williams who was given some minutes against Granada after returning from his injury. Raul Garcia won't be available for the first leg due to picking up too many yellow cards in the competition.
Athletic Club’s predicted line-up (4-2-3-1): Herrerin, De Marcos, Etxeita, Gurpegi, Balenziaga, San Jose, Benat, Williams, Eraso, Muniain, Aduriz.
Unai Emery’s side will be playing their normal formation, with no new injuries at all. Yehven Konoplyanka who was injured some time ago, returned in the squad that lost to Real Sociedad on the weekend and is expected to start on Thursday night. Steven N’Zonzi missed Sevilla’s last Europe League match against Basel and is clear to start once again for the side. Only injury for Sevilla is Marco Andreolli, who has been out for quite some time.
Sevilla’s predicted line-up (4-2-3-1): Soria, Mariano, Rami, Kolodziejczak, Tremoulinas, N’Zonzi, Cristoforo, Konoplanka, Banega, Krohn-Dehli, Gameiro.
What to expect
The game will be a tight one. Even with their awful away record, Sevilla would definitely be happy picking up an away goal at San Mames. Athletic will be expecting to carry on with their form in the Europa League and will hope to mainly keep a clean sheet to not give Sevilla a chance of going through.
A 2-1 Athletic win over Sevilla seems very realistic.