Athletic Club – Real Sociedad: Early La Real Goal Decides Hard Basque Derby (0-1)
A healthy dose of grit and passion made up for a lack of pure quality in this Basque derby. After scoring early through a quick counterattack, La Real contained their arch rival well, overcame some ultimately disappointing offensive moves and walked away with the win relatively easy.
Tactical analysis and match report by Erik Elias.
The usually fiery Basque derby was scheduled to be played as the Copa del Rey final in April 2020. Alas, the COVID-19 pandemic happened, and what would have made for a prominent chapter in the long history between these two clubs was turned into a significantly diminished affair, set to be played a full calendar year after it was initially planned (April 2021). It was therefore the first time these two teams met since February, in Bilbao for a league match instead of in Sevilla for a cup final.
For the occasion, Athletic Club manager Gaizka Garitano relied on his 4-2-3-1 system, with Iñaki Williams, captain Iker Muniain and Álex Berenguer in behind striker Asier Villalibre. Despite Iñaki Williams playing for 176 (!) straight LaLiga matches, the Bilbao prodigy has been somewhat of a disappointment so far when it comes to goals and assists – even though tactical context matters here, as his team more or less needs him to be a one man counterattacking machine to have a functional offense.
Real Sociedad’s formation of choice was 4-3-3, with holding midfielder Ander Guevara playing shortly behind stalwart midfielder Mikel Merino and useful shuttler Jon Guridi. No David Silva for today, as Portu was the right winger and the other side of the . . .