Athletic Bilbao v Las Palmas – San Mamés Stadium at 20:00 live at Sky Sports
After four seasons holding the fort at Athletic Bilbao, head coach Ernesto Valverde was lured away to Barcelona. With Les Leones never finishing lower than seventh during his reign, they were big boots to fill for Cuco Ziganda, the man stepping up from the B-team to take charge of first-team affairs.
The transition hasn’t been as seamless as supporters would have wished for. Athletic have been lounging around the bottom-half of La Liga for the majority of the campaign, clinching just six league victories in 22 outings and at one stage returning only W3-D2-L6.
Performances (and results) have slowly gathered pace but Bilbao arrive at Friday night’s fixture without a success in four (W0-D3-L1), losing 2-0 at Girona last time out. Nevertheless, Ziganda’s men have a great chance to get back to winning ways here as they welcome one of the division’s worst travellers.
Las Palmas still awful away
Las Palmas’ car crash campaign has shown a few signs of life since Paco Jemez arrived at the club after Christmas. The ex-Rayo Vallecano boss has curbed his cavalier – often suicidal – approach a little when playing in Gran Canaria and recently Los Amarillos have been unable to eke out a few positive results.
However, the Canary Islanders remain a shambolic proposition when travelling away. The visitors have lost nine of their last 11 road trips, failing to score in eight of their most recent nine games as guests and shipping two goals or more in each of their last eight outside of Las Palmas.
Los Amarillos’ only victory on the mainland came at rock-bottom Malaga and so the La Liga strugglers should provide easy meat for an Athletic outfit keen to get back on the winning trail.
Asian Handicap phase
Athletic’s W3-D5-L2 return at San Mames is far from frightening for opposition clubs this term but Les Leones have only faced three bottom-half sides this term, keeping clean sheets in each.
Viewing the last two seasons, Bilbao boast a wonderful return of W16-D4-L0 here when entertaining league opposition and the Basque team have been beaten in only three of their past 28 here. Indeed, the hosts have conceded only six home goals this term and have also won eight of their last 10 at San Mames against bottom-six teams.
With that in mind, backing Athletic with a -1 start on the Asian Handicap line at 1.83 appeals. We’ll see our stake returned should Les Leones succeed by a single goal but we’ll be paid out as a winner should the Basques beat Las Palmas by two goals or more.
Asian Handicap Betting Recommendation: Athletic Bilbao -1 at 1.840
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