La Liga Club Preview – Athletic Bilbao

Atheltic Bilbao, who have been consistently among European places in La Liga since the arrival of Ernesto Valverde in 2013-14, managed a seventh-place finish last season.

In last four years, Bilbao have registered fourth, seventh, fifth and seventh place finishes respectively, and Valverde was a big reason behind their continued success in the league.

However, the former Bilbao and Barcelona forward has departed for the Catalans this summer, and new manager José Ángel Ziganda have huge shoes to fill in his new position ahead of the next season. He has made a decent start to life in top-level management as his side dispatched Romanian side Dinamo Bucharest 4-1 on aggregate in the qualifying round of Europa League. The Basque club now have to face Greek giants Panathinaikos in the playoff round during 17-24 August.

Not much time is left before the La Liga season kicks off on August 20, but Bilbao haven’t been active on the market this summer yet. Bilbao, who are known for only fielding Basque players, haven’t really been linked with any players this summer, and at the moment, it doesn’t appear that there will be any major departure from the club.

Bilbao were briefly linked with a move for Arsenal defender Nacho Monreal, but that rumour has died a slow death as the Gunners are not keen on letting go of the Spaniard.

Defender Aymeric Laporte has been linked with an exit from the club repeatedly, but for now, it looks like he will be staying. The 23-year-old, who made 33 starts last season and picked up 28 points, is available at an attractive price of 3m. He was a part of nine clean sheets last season and also scored a couple of goals.

Veteran forward Aritz Aduriz and midfielder Raul Garcia were the only Bilbao players to touch double-digits in terms of goals last season, and they both once again will be their main scoring threats.

Aduriz, who is available for a hefty price of 9m, scored 16 goals and provided one assist in 32 appearances. The 36-year-old ended the season with an impressive point-total of 57. Garcia also managed an equivalent point tally on the back of ten goals and four assists in 36 appearances.

Goalkeeper Kepa Arrizabalaga, who picked up 41 points last season, is also a good purchase at the price of 1.5m.
Bilbao will begin the new league season with a home game against Getafe on August 20, and they will be favourites to pick up three points. Overall, a top-eight finish would be considered a good achievement for Ziganda in his first year of the job.

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