Evening all! Week 22 in La Liga gets underway as Valladolid welcome Bilbao to the Jose Zorrilla. The home side will certainly be the most content with their league position as things stand, but there have just been some signs in recent weeks that Bilbao could yet enjoy a successful end to the season. Both would be big movers up the table with three points this evening. Right, let's get straight to the team news.
VALLADOLID: Hernandez; Sereno, Rukavina, Valiente, Pena; Rubio, Oscar, Sastre, Larsson; Guerra, Bueno
BILBAO: Iraizoz; Iraola, San Jose, Aurtenetxe, Laporte; Gurpegi, Susaeta, Herrera, Aduriz; Muniain, De Marcos
So there we have it. The home side name arguably their strongest available side with Javi Guerra
, Oscar Gonzalez and Alvaro Rubio all in the starting team, while Sereno continues in defence. Bilbao continue with the same side that beat Atletico last weekend with Iker Muniain joined in attack by Oscar de Marcos
In terms of the recent meetings between the two sides, Bilbao have won the last two on their own patch. As mentioned, Valladolid did pick up a point last time out at home to Bilbao in October 2009. They also beat Bilbao in February 2009, but that has been their only win in their last five games against the Basque outfit.
Let’s take a closer look at how both sides have fared in the league this season. Valladolid currently sit comfortably in mid-table with 28 points from 21 matches. Should they win this evening then they would move into ninth position, just four points outside of a Champions League position, a quite stunning outcome. They also sit 10 points outside of the relegation zone and will feel confident of booking another season in Spain’s top division.
They have been quite impressive on their home patch, meanwhile, with five wins from their 11 matches. They have also conceded just eight goals at home, scoring 13. Their away form is hardly disastrous either with three wins from 10 matches. They have conceded 27 goals this season, which is just three less than Barcelona, while they have scored 30, a very respectable total.
Bilbao, meanwhile, have largely struggled this season. They currently sit in 13th position with 25 points from 21 matches, but would move level on points with Valladolid should they win this evening. Last time out they recorded an impressive 3-0 win over Atletico Madrid to move away from the relegation zone and now they will be keen to look up the league table.
Their away form has been slightly patchy this season with two wins, two draws and six defeats from their 10 matches. They have fared slightly better at home with five wins from 11 matches, but there is no question that they have struggled to repeat their form from last season, when they reached the final of the Europa League and Copa del Rey.
Bilbao have struggled in defence this season, however, with 40 goals conceded in their 21 matches. To put that into context with the rest of the division, Deportivo are the only team to have conceded more with 45. Bilbao have fared slightly better down the other end with 27 goals, but without Fernando Llorente, they have not had a regular scorer in La Liga.
Here we go then. Both sets of players join us on the pitch ahead of kickoff. The pre-match handshakes have been undertaken and the flags have been exchanged. Just about time for my pre-match prediction. Both teams have had encouraging results of late and therefore I cannot separate them. It is a score draw for me. Be sure to stay with us as the evening unfolds.
Tonight's referee is Javier Estrada. Let's hope that we are discussing the match and not the officials come the end of the evening. It would also be nice to keep 22 players on the pitch following the influx of red cards in Spain this season. Here we go then. The home side get us underway on this rainy evening in Spain.
Confident start from the home side with Alvaro Rubio, Oscar Gonzalez and Lluis Sastre seeing plenty of the ball in midfield. However, there is no question that Valladolid will miss Patrick Ebert this evening. He has been their star man in this campaign. Not a full house inside the stadium, but a good crowd nonetheless.
Bilbao attempt to break with Muniain, but the Spanish striker cannot pick up the pass from De Marcos. Ander Herrera is involved moments later as the midfielder finds Susaeta down the right, but his cross is blocked by Rukavina. Not too much to report in terms of chances in the opening four minutes of this match.
Slightly scrappy period to the match at the moment with neither side taking too much care in possession. Valladolid do launch an attack as Rukavina darts down the right before firing a low cross into the box, but Iraizoz is out to collect. Bilbao attack down the other end with De Marcos, but the danger is quelled at the vital moment.
Half-chance for the away side as Susaeta picks up possession outside the box before turning and striking a low effort on goal, but it just moves wide of the post. You just get the feeling that the opening goal this evening - should we indeed have one - will have a major say on the final result. Neither team have been among the goals in this campaign.
Bilbao threaten once more as Aduriz collects possession outside the box before turning and attempting to feed Muniain, but Sereno is across to clear at the vital moment. The home side threaten down the other end as Rukavina finds Oscar in the box, but the danger is cleared.
GOAL! Valladolid 1-0 Athletic Bilbao (Guerra)
Valladolid take the lead as Rukavina fires a powerful cross into the penalty area, with Guerra on hand to thump his header into the back of the net from close range. Wonderful football from the home side.
Guerra was preferred with Manucho this evening with the latter just returning from international duty, but that decision has certainly paid off. You do worry for Bilbao when they concede the first goal. Valladolid really have their tails up at the moment as they strive forward with pace and numbers.
Herrera attempts to go alone for Bilbao as the Spanish midfielder picks up possession outside the box before striking towards goal, but it was always moving wide of the post. The away side want a penalty moments later as Aduriz clashes with Sereno in the box, but the referee shakes his head and play is continued.
Another half-chance comes to the home side as Bueno combines with Guerra inside the Bilbao box, but the return pass just takes the striker too wide and San Jose is across to clear the danger. Bilbao have been nice and tidy in possession in the opening 15 minutes, but have not really come close to opening their tally thus far.
CROSSBAR! Decent football from the away side in and around the opposing penalty area as Herrera combines with Muniain before the latter finds San Jose outside the box. The Spaniard strikes a powerful effort towards the top corner, but it just thumps against the crossbar.
GOAL! Valladolid 2-0 Athletic Bilbao (Bueno)
Valladolid score their second of the evening as Larsson picks up possession outside the box before firing a low cross into the penalty area. Guerra steps over the ball and Bueno is on hand to turn into the empty net. Bilbao are really rocking here. Wonderful football once more.
You have to question that the Bilbao defending in that second goal. There was so much room for Larsson to look up and pick his man in the middle of the box. Where was the midfield? I think it would be fair to say that if the home side score the next goal then it is well and truly game over, with just 18 minutes on the clock.
Bilbao attempt to respond as Iraola drives down the right before slipping a pass towards De Marcos, but it just skids off the turf and out for a goal kick. Meanwhile, the home supporters are really enjoying themselves at the moment as they continue to raise the roof off this stadium. Or maybe they are just keeping warm?! It is a bitter night in Spain.
Not too much to report in terms of chances in the past few moments with Valladolid comfortable in keeping possession. This is not the same Bilbao side that took apart Atletico Madrid last weekend. However, credit must be given to the home side. They have suffocated the Bilbao midfield since the word go this evening. We are just about at the midpoint of the first period.
GOAL! Valladolid 2-1 Athletic Bilbao (De Marcos)
Hold the phone! Bilbao are straight back in this game! It's brilliant work from Iraola as the Spaniard fires a low cross into the penalty area, De Marcos gets in front of his marker to turn the ball into the back of the net. Three really high-class finishes in this match.
I have to admit that I did not see this match bringing a host of goals this evening. However, I have been proved wrong in the opening 25 minutes of football. Make no mistake about it, there are more goals to come. Bilbao are suddenly full of confidence as they continue to pass and probe outside the Valladolid penalty area.
Again Bilbao threaten as Herrera picks up possession outside the box before striking an effort towards the top corner, but it was always moving high of the crossbar. Another opportunity arrives moments later as Muniain beats two challenges before driving into the box, but Pena is across to make a fine challenge.
First sign of real frustration from the home side as the referee fails to award Oscar a free kick despite a heavy challenge from Aduriz. The Bilbao attacking threat continues as Susaeta drives down the right, but his low cross into the box is cleared. Aurtenetxe is forward from defence moments later to win a corner, but the danger is headed clear by Valiente.
Again it's good work from Bilbao as Muniain finds Herrera just outside the box, the midfielder strikes a powerful effort towards goal, but Hernandez gets down well to clear the danger. Another opportunity arrives moments later as De Marcos fires an effort from outside the box, but it is just wide of the target.
Simply all one-way traffic as Herrera slips a low pass behind the Valladolid defence, but Hernandez is out to clear at the vital moment. The wetness on the pitch is just making it hard for the ball to stick when played along the ground, but there is no question who is in the ascendancy as Aduriz fires another effort wide of the Valladolid goal.
Little over 10 minutes of the first period remaining, the home side lead 2-1, but much has changed since they took control of the early stages. We have not been anything from the home side since Bilbao cut the deficit. It is just so delicately poised. All the suggestions of a fairly low-key match have been quelled.
Bilbao continue to pass and probe outside the penalty area with their midfield three involved in the final third, but in fairness to Valladolid, they have defended well since conceding. Meanwhile, the quickness of the pitch continues to cause problems with neither side able to find the target with a series of long passes.
Valladolid are forced into their first change of the match as Valiente is injured in a challenge with Aduriz. It appears that the Bilbao striker struck the Spaniard with an elbow, but it did look accidental. The stretcher is on and the defender is replaced by Jesus Rueda.
Little under five minutes of the first period remaining and the home side continue to lead 2-1. However, they are far from comfortable with Bilbao looking the most likely to add to the scoring. Meanwhile, a host of challenges have just called the referee into the action, slowing the match tempo in the process. Not too much to report with 41 minutes on the clock.
End-to-end couple of minutes with Bilbao threatening as Aduriz meets a cross from Aurtenetxe, but he can only head straight at Hernandez. Oscar causes problems down the other end as he pulls the ball out of the air before slipping a pass towards Guerra, but Iraizoz is quick off his line to clear.
Rukavina again threatens down the right for the home side as the defender picks up possession before driving a low cross into the box, but San Jose is across to clear at the vital moment with Larsson lurking. Meanwhile, the fourth official indicates that we will play an additional two minutes of stoppage time.
Not too much to report in stoppage time with both teams guilty of giving away possession too easily in the final third. Muniain attempts to threaten late in the half as the Bilbao winger plays a pass towards Aduriz, but Hernandez is out to collect at the vital moment.
HALF-TIME: Real Valladolid 2-1 Athletic Bilbao
So there we have it. An eventful half of football is brought to an end with Valladolid leading 2-1. The home side scored twice in the early stages through Guerra and Bueno, but De Marcos pulled one back for Bilbao with 22 minutes on the clock. It is so delicately poised ahead of the second period.
Let's take a look at some statistics from the first period. Bilbao have just shaded the possession with 53%, while they have had eight attempts to Valladolid's four. The home side certainly started the match the stronger, but there has only been one team in it since Bilbao opened their tally after 22 minutes.
Let's take a look at the benches ahead of the second period. Valladolid have a host of attacking options in their 18-man squad with Manucho, Baraja and Ruben Pena all involved. Meanwhile, Bilbao also have options on the sidelines with Ramalho and Iturraspe capable of influencing proceedings. I suspect the benches will play some part in this match.
Right, we are just a couple of minutes away from the second period. Let me take this moment to remind you what we have to come this weekend in La Liga. We have three back-to-back matches to bring you tomorrow from 4.30pm. Meanwhile, on Sunday, Sports Mole has live coverage from four fixtures in Spain's top division.
Here we go then. Both sets of players join us on the pitch ahead of the second period. No changes for either side at the interval which is not all that surprising based on how events unfolded in the opening 45. A reminder that three points for Bilbao would move them level on points with Valladolid, but as it stands the home wide would move into ninth. The home side get the half underway.
Early change in the second period for the away side as Muniain is replaced by Ibai Gomez. It did appear that the winger was carrying a knock in the first period and therefore he has been replaced. Valladolid came close to their third as Bueno strikes an effort from inside the box, but it thumps against the post. What a big goal that would have been.
Bilbao advance immediately down the other end with De Marcos finding the run of Ibai, but Hernandez is out to gather the danger. Really high-tempo start to this second period with both sides attacking with pace and numbers. We could be in for a real treat in this second half.
CHANCE! Wonderful opportunity for Bilbao to level the scores as De Marcos collects possession in the box before firing a low effort towards the bottom corner, but Hernandez is out to make a fine save. Surely there will be goals in this second half.
GOAL! Valladolid 2-2 Athletic Bilbao (Susaeta)
Bilbao level! It's poor defending from the home side as they fail to clear a corner. Laporte gathers possession in the box before clipping towards the back post and Susaeta cannot miss as he bundles the ball into the back of the net from close range.
End-to-end football once more with both teams attacking with pace and numbers. Meanwhile, the weather is really creating a wonderful spectacle here as the wind and rain continue to sweep across the field. It is the away side that are currently in control of the ball as they pass and probe outside the penalty area.
Again Bilbao threaten as Aurtenetxe drives down the left before clipping a dangerous cross into the penalty box, but Aduriz just cannot make contract with Pena on hand to clear the danger. Valladolid attempt to break with Larsson, but the Swedish international just cannot keep hold of possession. Just about 35 minutes of this match remaining and we sit level at 2-2.
It's better from the home side as Pena advances down the left before driving a low cross into the box, but San Jose can only turn over his own crossbar. The resulting corner causes problems in the Bilbao box, but eventually Iraizoz comes to collect the high ball. This match really could go either way at the moment.
The Bilbao pressure continues as the Basque outfit force a series of corners in quick succession, but Pena is on hand to clear the first before Laporte turns the second wide of the post. Valladolid advance immediately down the other end, with Guerra forcing a corner, but San Jose rises highest to clear down field. Little over 30 minutes of football remaining.
Decent possession from Valladolid in the last couple of moments but they are not really creating too much in the final result. Will they stick or twist? A point would not be the worst result for either of these teams this evening, but having been 2-0 ahead, Valladolid will surely see it as two points dropped.
Not too much to report in terms of clear chances in the last few minutes with neither side taking too much care in possession. Oscar, who was the home side's main threat in the first period, has just faded, while Bueno and Guerra have also struggled. Is it time for Manucho? Both managers have made one change thus far.
Slightly scrappy period of the match at the moment with both sides guilty of giving away a host of free kicks in midfield. In fairness it has not been that type of match thus far. A half-chance arrives for Valladolid as Sastre strikes a free kick from outside the box, but it was always moving wide of the post.
Opportunity for the away side once more as Herrera plays a through pass towards Aduriz, the Spaniard's first touch is good, but he is crowded out at the vital moment. A lack of communication down the other end causes problems for Iraizoz, but the Bilbao goalkeeper does manage to clear the danger with Bueno in close proximity.
Another extended spell of Bilbao pressure threatens to bring their third as Herrera dances past two players before finding De Marcos in the box, but his effort is just wide of the target. It is the Bilbao supporters that are really making the noise with just over 20 minutes of football remaining. Will we have a winner in the latter stages?
Meanwhile, the home side make another change as Omar Ramos replaces Larsson. Still no movement on the Bilbao bench, but Bielsa still has two changes should he so wish. How he would love to have Llorente in reserve this evening. The Spanish striker, who is currently injured, will join Juventus at the end of the season having agreed terms with the Italian champions.
CHANCE! Another glorious chance for the away side as Aurtenetxe meets a deep corner, but he can only head wide of the target from close range. That really should have been 3-2. You just get the feeling that there is another goal in this match. Valladolid surely would be happy with a point based on the pressure they have been under since the restart.
It's good work from Bueno as the Valladolid striker drives down the right before firing a low cross into the box, but it just takes a deflection before moving behind for a corner. The resulting set piece is taken by Oscar, but San Jose rises highest in the box to clear. Little over 15 minutes of football remaining as Omar fires past the post from close range.
Decent spell of possession for the home side in the last couple of moments with Bueno taking on a main role in their search for a winner. Bilbao just appeared to have settled into a shape in the last few minutes as they defend the edge of their area. Will we have a winner in the latter stages of this match?
It's all one-way traffic at the moment as the home side continue to push forward in numbers. Meanwhile, Susaeta is the latest player to have his name taken as the Bilbao winger chops down Bueno in his tracks. The resulting free kick is taken by Oscar, but Laporte rises highest to clear under pressure from Sastre.
Bilbao enjoy their spell in possession as De Marcos carries the threat from a deep position. The Spaniard fires a low cross towards Susaeta, but the winger just cannot make proper contact and it moves out of play for a goal kick. Little under 10 minutes of football remaining and the result remains very much in the balance.
Bilbao again threaten with a long free kick into the Valladolid box, but Sereno clears. The pressure remains as Herrera attempts to find Aduriz, but Pena gets his body in the way at the vital moment. The away side want a penalty, but the referee shakes his head and rightly so.
Another half-chance arrives as San Jose strikes a powerful effort from outside the box, but it is straight at Hernandez. Meanwhile, the home side make their third and final change as Manucho replaces Guerra. Can the powerful striker influence proceedings on his return from international duty? He does not have long to make an impact.
CHANCE! Another glorious chance comes to the away side as Ibai collects a pass from Herrera before driving a shot towards the bottom corner, but once more Hernandez is across to make a fine save. Little over three minutes of normal time to play and the score remains 2-2. However, both sides are still threatening to take the lead.
Slightly scrappy end to the match with both sides guilty of giving away a host of free kicks in and around the centre circle. A high cross into the Bilbao box allows Manucho to attack the ball, but Iraizoz is out to collect. We will soon find out how much stoppage time will be played.
Not too much to report in the last couple of minutes with both teams just settling into a shape. It appears that the points will indeed be shared unless there is late drama here. The fourth official indicates that we will play an additional three minutes of time.
Couple of half-chances in stoppage time with Bueno coming close for Valladolid with an effort from distance, before Aduriz strikes wide down the other end. Based on the balance of play, both sides will be content with the point this evening. Little under 30 seconds remaining.
FULL-TIME: Real Valladolid 2-2 Athletic Bilbao
So there we have it. The points are shared in the mid-table clash between Real Valladolid
and Athletic Bilbao
. Thanks for joining Sports Mole
for the action and be sure to join us tomorrow for more Spanish football. Until then!