Athletic Bilbao v Leganes Live at Eleven Sports
Last season was one to forget in Bilbao. It was never going to be easy following the departure of long-time head coach Ernesto Valverde – Les Leones had never finished below seventh during his tenure – but even the most ardent of supporters didn’t expect such a downturn in performance levels.
The Basque giants tabled a paltry tally of just 10 wins across the La Liga season as a whole – progress stunted by a divisional-high 13 stalemates. Jose Angel ‘Cuco’ Ziganda never looked like successfully filling the hot-seat and so there was an air of inevitability when his reign came to an end.
Athletic eventually finished in 16th and the club’s board moved to bring in former Celta Vigo and Sevilla head coach Eduardo Berizzo for 2018/19. One of the new boss’ immediate tasks will be to turn San Mames back into the fortress it once was after Bilbao returned just W6-D8-L5 here under Cuco.
Fifteen of those fixtures featured fewer than three goals but Berizzo’s forward-thinking approach should at least bring more entertainment back to Les Leones. And recapturing their home form of 2017/18 (W13-D4-L2) shouldn’t be beyond them having enjoyed a fairly decent summer transfer window.
Reinforced Athletic ready to roll
Talented young goalkeeper Kepa may have departed and key striker Aritz Aduriz a declining force at 37, although Iker Muniain is hoping for a more injury-free season and much more is expected of Raul Garcia. Elsewhere, Athletic have recruited exciting full-backs Yuri Berchiche and Ander Capa to enhance the squad.
Overall, the team shouldn’t requite too many tweaks, or major surgery, and with Berizzo the boss, the Basques should once again be competing in the upper echelons of La Liga. With that in mind, I’m happy to back the hosts at kind 1.81 quotes to overcome a -0.50 Asian Handicap hurdle against Leganes on Monday.
Visitors likely to be battling against the drop
Leganes were a cushy 14 points clear of the drop zone and never looked in serious danger following a superb start, tabling five wins from their first nine games. However, the capital club finished fourth from bottom and picked up only 12 points on their travels.
Mauricio Pellegrino takes charge following a failed spell at Southampton and his stiny with Alaves in 2016/17 suggests the Cucumber Growers could continue to punch above their weight despite the departure of Real Sociedad-bound head coach Asier Garitano.
Funds are tight at the Madrid minnows and they’ve moved to bring in Diego Rolan as they bid to address their goalscoring problems – no one scored more than five times for Leganes last season. The outsiders are likely to be battling for survival and having lost 12 of their past 15 winless away days, are easily opposed.
Asian Handicap Betting Recommendation: Athletic Bilbao -0.50 at 1.820
Preview by: @MarkOHaire.