Athletic Bilbao v Granada – San Mamés Stadium at 14:00 GMT at Premier Sports
Gaizka Garitano took charge of Athletic Bilbao almost 12 months ago with the Basques entrenched in the relegation mix-up following a 13-game winless run under former boss Eduardo Berizzo.
Garitano was given the gig following a spell with Athletic’s youth set-up and immediately set about improving fortunes, guiding Les Leones to within potential reach of the top-four at one stage of the season. However, the eight-time champions ran out of steam to settle in eighth.
Athletic’s meek record on the road ultimately proved their downfall and Les Leones looked to be struggling with the same issues before a trip to Basque rivals Osasuna. But Garitano’s group earned their first away day success of the season, ending the Pamplona club’s long unbeaten home spell in the process.
Victory was Athletic’s third in four unbeaten fixtures, moving Les Leones to within two points of the Champions League qualification places once more. And now the Basque giants return to their San Mames base for a very winnable encounter with early pacesetters Granada on Sunday afternoon.
Athletic value to take top honours
Under Garitano’s watch, Athletic have returned an excellent W18-D11-L9 – a 47% win rate in home and away La Liga matches. But if we only count contests at San Mames, the hosts have pocketed a hugely impressive W13-D5-L1 – a 68% win rate – plus a remarkable 10 clean sheets from 19 outings.
Despite such overwhelmingly strong stats, Athletic are still available to support at 1.75 for Sunday’s meeting with Granada and punters should snap up quotes on the home side to take top honours. Les Leones are also comfortably ranked above the newcomers across a range of performance data metrics.
Granada starting to falter
Newly-promoted Granada have made a superb start to life back in the Spanish top-flight. With survival top of Los Rojiblancos’ priority list, the Andalusians have already enjoyed a week at the top of La Liga – the first time they’d been there for 46 years – as well as accumulating more league wins than their last top-tier stint.
Under Diego Martínez – the division’s youngest head coach and without any previous La Liga experience – Granada excelled early on, winning half of their opening 12 outings. El Grana have since slipped to three defeats from four winless games against capable opponents Getafe, Sociedad, Atletico and Valencia.
Boasting La Liga’s third poorest wage budget, Los Rojiblancos were never expected to be peaking above the top-half, although Martinez’s men have made the most of tight-margin matches, utilising their set-piece attack efficiently. However, a trip to San Mames isn’t for the feint-hearted and it’s difficult to see Granada getting back on the bus with a positive performance this weekend.
Asian Handicap Betting Recommendation: Athletic Bilbao -0.50 at 1.750
Preview by: @MarkOHaire.