Athletic Bilbao vs Real Sociedad

It’s a day of reckoning in the Basque country as arch-rivals Athletic Bilbao and Real Sociedad lock horns at Estadio San Mames.

Fresh off being named ‘La Liga Manager of the Month’ for December, Athletic Bilbao boss Ernesto Valverde has lofty expectations ahead of this clash as he bids to inspire his side to a third consecutive H2H victory on home soil and possibly avenge a dismal 3-0 defeat in the reverse fixture. A comprehensive 3-0 away win over second-tier Eibar in the build-up to this contest strengthened Bilbao’s confidence, extending their winning streak ‘to nil’ across all competitions to four matches. Bilbao kicked things off in 2024 with a well-deserved 2-0 win at La Liga strugglers Sevilla to leapfrog Atletic Madrid into fourth. But with a mere goal difference separating the sides ahead of the kick-off, stretching an outrageous four-game winning home league run is imperative for Bilbao.

In the meantime, Real Sociedad’s poor league form continued at the start of 2024 as a disappointing 1-1 draw against bottom-half Deportivo Alaves condemned them to a third consecutive La Liga stalemate. Six points adrift of their hosts, Sociedad would appreciate a league win for a change following a narrow 1-0 triumph against lower-league Malaga in last week’s Copa del Rey action. Imanol Alguacil’s men have an almost unique opportunity to beat Bilbao in both league encounters during a single campaign, a feat they’ve only achieved twice in their history. Sociedad’s impressive run of ten unbeaten away matches in the lead-up to this trip (W6, D4) could be a source of optimism, as should the fact they’ve kept a clean sheet on their last five travels.

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