ATHLETIC - REAL SOCIEDAD
Athletic lockdown Lezama ahead of Sunday's derby
Valverde is weighing up playing Iturraspe for injury-hit Beñat in Sunday's derby against Real Sociedad; but no one really knows, as the team are working behind closed doors...
Long in the dark, distant past are the days when Marcelo Bielsa would practically advertise his chosen XI, like the town crier - fielding them in open training sessions or even listing the team in a roll call in pre-match press conferences. Current Athletic Club coach Ernesto Valverde prefers to keep his cards close to his chest and give absolutely zero away to the team's rivals. Txingurri is especially prudent when it comes to the Basque derby.
There will be been no access to Lezmana for the press in the three days leading up to the game - apart from for press conferences, but reporters won't be able to see anything of what is going on on the practice pitches. Which is fair enough - Real Sociedad coach Eusebio is doing exactly the same in Zubieta - with the team training away from prying eyes.
Beñat in the wars
Valverde is waiting to see how his most in-form player Beñat Etxebarria progresses as he recovers from a sprain to his left hamstring. Whether Beñat plays, or makes way for Ander Iturraspe will be a mystery until an hour before kick-off on Sunday. The last thing the Athletic coach wants is for Eusebio to second-guess his XI. Looking at Athletic's immediate fixtures, it seems unlikely that Beñat will be risked in a high-octane derby which, if the most recent ones are anything to go on, will push both teams to their physical limits; Valverde doesn't want Beñat's delicate hamstring to suffer a tear.
Balenziaga suspension stands
Apart from Beñat, Valverde has Aketxe and Bóveda out injured while Iñaki Williams and Arrizabalaga have both been training inside the gym. Yeray Álvarez looks set to start, partnering Laporte in central defence for his first derby experience. Full-back Mikel Balenziaga will watch the game from the stands as he completes a one-match ban for his dismissal in the last game, against Málaga, after Athletic had their appeal against the decision rejected this afternoon.
*Update 13 de octubre de 2016
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