Saturday, June 16, 2007

Bilbao : Fight for Survival

San Mamés
Originally uploaded by kimiborracho
This is it, Athletic de Bilbao goes for all or nothing in this what very well could be their last game at the top soccer division in Spain.

I know a couple of friends that will be unable to get some sleep tonight. Some of them root for Real Sociedad, some for Athletic. The best of lucks to all of them.

Here you have a note that appeared at Covers, the title is scary enough, although mistakenly the author forgets that Osasuna is also a Basque team, here you have it:

La Liga
Saturday, Jun 16, 2007

La Liga back to one Basque team?

By Associated Press

MADRID, Spain -- It's been 40 years since the Spanish league fielded a single Basque team.

Come Sunday, it could be time again.

Athletic Bilbao and Real Sociedad are involved in the "other" great fight that comes with every league title race: Avoiding the drop.

Pamplona-based club Osasuna, which reached the UEFA Cup semifinals this season, sits mid-table and will go into next season with a European qualifying place on its mind.

But Athletic and Sociedad - as well as Real Betis and Celta Vigo - are fighting to be one of the two clubs to stay up after Sunday's final round of league matches.

Betis and Athletic have 37 points, Celta 36, and Sociedad 34. Last-place Gimnastic Tarragona, which has 28, has already been relegated.

The stakes will be highest for Athletic when it hosts Levante at San Mames Stadium on Sunday. Bilbao are 1/3 with Levante at 15/2.

Winner of eight league crowns, Athletic is one of only three clubs to have never dropped out of the topflight in its 109-year history. The others are Real Madrid and FC Barcelona.

The Rojiblancos, who escaped relegation last season by winning their final two games, host Levante.

"Athletic will get the result it needs," club president Ana Urquijo said. "It's an important game and we'll face it like we've faced others in difficult moments."

Athletic was built on the "cantera," a club policy of recruiting only Basque players that has been the base of team selection since 1912.

The "cantera" has spawned players such as Rafael Moreno Aranzadi - who's nickname "Pichichi" is used on the award given to the league's top goalscorer - and 89 Spain internationals, including striker Talmo Zarra, who set the league record with 38 goals in one season.

Since the domestic double winning season of 1984, Athletic has managed five top-five finishes.

"Your new Atheltic," a party nominated for next month's presidential elections, wants the team to be 30 percent foreign.

"Athletic's members are mature and understand that it cannot continue on the same path of little by little getting through poor seasons that are weighed down with hardship," the group said in a statement released on Friday.

A drop to the second division could be costly to Spain's oldest soccer team since it's planning a new 55,000-seat stadium to be ready for 2012.

"The decisive moment has arrived," coach Joseba Etxeberria said. "We know we cannot fail and we will not fail. We can't even think of things going wrong."

Sociedad has a date with Champions League qualifier Valencia at the Mestalla Stadium where it has won only eight times in 58 encounters.

Sociedad holds the tiebreaker advantage in case of a four-way tie at 37 points, with Betis also staying up. In case of a three-way tie, Sociedad is safe too.

Still, the team which challenged Madrid for the league title to the final day four years ago needs help from others to survive its first drop since 1967.

"We're preparing knowing that if we win we have hopes," Sociedad striker Darko Kovacevic said. "We have options, and not a few. It's still very open."

Sociedad fields Basque players along with internationals like Serbia's Kovacevic.

Little investment in last season's squad - which finished one point above relegation - has left the team in the bottom three since the start of the season.

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1 comment:

  1. Since both Athletic and Erreala risked dropping out yesterday and Osasuna had secured the spot for next season, I think the writer really meant Osasuna with the frase "a single Basque team".