Athletic Bilbao is sinking into near irrelevance after losing most of the games in both the Spanish Primera Division and the Champions League. Nothing seems to be going their way, with the offensive being simply abysmal while the midfield is struggling to fill the gaps. Not even the backline is what it used to be, with the Basques allowing plenty of goals when playing against mediocre opponents.
Their European campaign seems to be doomed after the terrible start, but even so they could keep their hopes alive by causing a major upset in Portugal. In the opening match, they had to settle for one point against Shakhtar and then lost to BATE on the road, while scoring a single goal in both games. This is particularly frustrating for a team that used to be dominant upfront and the fact that they have retained most of their strikers during the season break didn’t help one bit.
Another critical problem for the visitors is that they tend to allow plenty of goals, with the first half being particularly hurtful for their chances. They are yet to win a game this season and lost three matches to nil in the domestic championship, while drawing twice against weak opponents. Barcelona and Real Madrid made short work of their defenses and they were never a danger upfront, so Athletic Bilbao fans have plenty of reasons to be worried ahead of this fixture.
By comparison, the Portuguese side fares slightly better but they are still behind schedule on both fronts and something needs to change soon. In the Portuguese championship there are trailing archrivals Benfica by one point and in the Champions League they can consider themselves lucky to have four points. After the convincing victory over BATE they barely scrapped a point on the road against the Ukrainian side and they will need to be more careful defensively if they are to keep a clean sheet.
Manager Lopetegui didn’t hesitate to use three strikers on the road in Ukraine, but this decision proved to be a big mistake because the forwards were mediocre at best. Much to his credit, he decided to make the necessary replacement in the last 30 minutes of the game and introduced Martinez on the pitch. The Colombian goal-getter worked his magic and scored twice in the last three minutes of the game, to deny the hosts their first victory in the Champions league.
It is most unlikely that the Portuguese manager will use the same starting formation tonight, and this time he will feature Martinez in the starting formation. Despite the fact that his opponents are struggling heavily on all fronts, he is not overconfident in his chances and expects a tough test. More on the matter can be found at http://www.fourfourtwo.com/news/porto-v-athletic-bilbao-lopetegui-expecting-tough-test.