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Chivas and Athletic gear up for special match in Bilbao

Sunday’s Tree of Gernika Trophy clash at San Mamés is the first of a new, two-legged tournament with Chivas as guests.

MEX00. CIUDAD DE MÉXICO (MÉXICO), 17/09/2022.- El jugador de América Alejandro Zendejas (i) disputa el balón con Jesús Orozco (d) de Chivas hoy, durante un partido de la jornada 15 del Torneo Apertura del fútbol mexicano realizado en el Estadio Azteca de la Ciudad de México (México). EFE/José Méndez
José MéndezEFE

Athletic Club and Chivas Guadalajara will play the first edition of the Tree of Gernika Trophy on Sunday (kick-off: 19:00 hours CET in Bilbao and 12:00 p.m. CST in Mexico). This will be the first leg of a special new symbolic tournament with a unique format. The tournament will be played over two legs - one game in Spain, the return leg in Mexico next summer but unlike traditional two-legged cup ties, the aggregate score over the two games will not count and nor will goal difference or away goals. Instead, the tournament will be decided by a penalty shoot-out (five per team then sudden death), regardless of the outcome in each leg.

Another curious feature is that both teams will be allowed unlimited substitutions - as long as all of the changes are made within a maximum of three windows. So everyone will have the chance to play.

Sunday’s inaugural game will be played in Bilbao at San Mamés with the return leg taking place with Chivas hosting Athletic at Estadio Akron in Zapopan, Mexico on 16 July 2023.

Trees are symbolic for both clubs and feature on both of their badges. For Athletic and the Basque Country in general, the Tree of Gernika has huge significance for the region. The Gernikako Arbola (in Euskera - Basque) is an oak tree which “symbolises traditional freedoms for the Bizkayan people and the Basque people as a whole”. The tree stands on a small plot of land in front of the Assembly House of Bizkaia, in Gernika-Lumo. A new tree was replanted in 2004 after the old tree (planted in 1860) succumbed to a fungal disease.

Sunday’s match will serve Athletic coach Ernesto Valverde to keep his players competitive while LaLiga is on hold for the World Cup. His side beat Real Valladolid 2-0 in a friendly in Anduva on Tuesday. Similarly, Chivas will be gearing up for the start of the Clausura 2023 which gets underway at the start of next month - their opening game is away to Monterrey on 7 January.


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