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Preview: Athletic Bilbao vs. Alaves - prediction, team news, lineups

:Headline: Preview: Athletic Bilbao vs. Alaves - prediction, team news, lineups:
Sports Mole previews Saturday's La Liga clash between Athletic Bilbao and Alaves, including predictions, team news and possible lineups.
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Following the sacking of Abelardo this week, new Alaves boss Javi Calleja will preside over his first La Liga game at the helm of the club when they face their Basque rivals Athletic Bilbao at San Memes on Saturday.

Athletic come into this game with one eye on their Copa del Rey final against Barcelona next weekend; the club lost the 2020 final last weekend when Real Sociedad bested them 1-0 in a heated contest.

Match preview

In spite of the very real possibility that Athletic could lose two Copa del Rey finals in one season, the club have become a stoic, dogged force under Marcelino's leadership and recent results have been good for the Basque heavyweights.

Cup woes aside, Marcelino's men have lost just one top-flight game in their last nine outings, picking up six draws along the way.

Against Real Sociedad in La Liga during midweek, 10th-placed Athletic narrowly missed out on immediate revenge, with Imanol Alguacil's side fighting back to draw level in the dying stages of a dramatic 1-1 draw.

Marcelino has won three of his four top-flight games as a manager against Alaves, a personal exploit he will hope to sustain during this weekend's clash.

Alex Berenguer has become a key man for Marcelino, having been involved in four goals in his last six league appearances at San Mames.

Alaves opted for one last roll of the dice this week, as manager Abelardo, who was appointed just months ago to replace Pablo Machin, was given his marching orders.

Any remaining hope Alaves have of securing La Liga survival now rests upon the shoulders of Calleja, who was given a short-term contract this week.

The former Villarreal boss' baptism of fire begins this weekend before 20th-placed Alaves take on Villarreal and Valencia in the coming weeks. Crucial must-win games against Huesca, Eibar and Elche will no doubt determine whether the Basque club have what it takes to retain their La Liga credentials.

Alaves have gone winless in their last seven games, scoring six goals and conceding 18 during that time.

Calleja certainly has his work cut out for him if he is serious about taking on Athletic this weekend.

Athletic Bilbao La Liga form:
  • D
  • W
  • L
  • D
  • D
  • D

Athletic Bilbao form (all competitions):
  • W
  • L
  • D
  • D
  • L
  • D

Alaves La Liga form:
  • L
  • L
  • L
  • D
  • L
  • L

Team News

Time will tell how Calleja will go about organising his starting 11, but it is unlikely that the new boss will make any big changes to the side.

Absentees for Alaves include Facundo Pellistri, Abdel Abqar and Rodrigo Ely.

Following a busy week for Athletic, Marcelino may well opt to rotate a few players or tinker with the side during the 90 minutes.

Yeray Alvarez (groin injury) and Yuri Berchiche (hamstring injury) will likely miss out on this tie.

Athletic Bilbao possible starting lineup:
Simon; De Marcos, Nunez, Martinez, Capa; Alex Berenguer, Vencedor, Garcia, Muniain; Villalibre, Williams

Alaves possible starting lineup:
Pacheco; Navarro, Laguardia, Lejeune, Duarte; Mendez, Battaglia, Pina, Rioja; Jota, Joselu

We say: Athletic Bilbao 2-0 Alaves

With a favourable run-in compared to their relegation rivals, Alaves stand a good chance of avoiding the drop, but we do not think a great escape will begin this weekend. Athletic are a much better side and they should comfortably pick up three points on Saturday.

Top tip

Our expert tipster partners at Sporita.com are predicting a double chance bet on a home win or an away win in this match. Click here to find out what else they are predicting for this game and for more of their tried-and-tested football tips.Home/Away:data

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