Evening all! Sports Mole
's live La Liga coverage continues from the Anoeta as Real Sociedad
welcome Basque rivals Athletic Bilbao
. Neither side has been particularly impressive in the early stages of the new Spanish season, but Sociedad currently sit five places above Bilbao in the table.
This will be the 137th La Liga meeting between these two teams. Sociedad have won 45 of those fixtures, with Bilbao recording 56 victories and the further 35 finishing level. Bilbao might have more wins on the board, but Sociedad are unbeaten in their last six against Bilbao – they have not reached seven since 2000. What's more, each of the last three Basque derbies between these two have finished 1-1.
Right, let me bring you up-to-speed with the all-important team news from the Anoeta...
SOCIEDAD: Rulli; Elustondo, Inigo, Reyes, De la Bella; Illarramendi, Pardo, Canales, Zurutuza; Vela, Agirretxe
BILBAO: Iraizoz; De Marcos, Etxeita, Laporte, Balenziaga; San Jose, Benat, Garcia; Susaeta, Aduriz, Sabin
So there we have it. Geronimo Rulli is back between the sticks for Sociedad after serving his one-game suspension, while David Zurutuza keeps his spot in the XI. Asier Illarramendi, who was strongly linked with a move to Bilbao this summer, starts in the middle of the park, while Carlos Vela will once again be joined by Imanol Agirretxe in the final third. Jonathas and Xabi Prieto are both on the bench.
As for Bilbao, they are unchanged from the team that narrowly lost at home to Real Madrid last week. That means there is still no room for Mikel Rico, with Benat and Mikel San Jose supporting Raul Garcia in what is a midfield three. There is good news on the bench, meanwhile, with Inaki Williams and Ander Iturraspe both being deemed fit enough to make the squad following injury.
It would be fair to say that Sociedad's 3-0 win at Granada on Tuesday was one of Moyes's most important results since taking charge of the Basque club. Sociedad opened the new season with back-to-back 0-0 draws against Deportivo La Coruna and Sporting Gijon, before losing to Real Betis and Espanyol. There was a lot of pressure on Moyes entering the clash at Granada, but a strong win moved them onto five points and indeed above their opponents here in the table.
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Moyes took over a struggling Sociedad last November, but managed to lead the Basques to a 12th-place finish. The supporters will be looking for improvement, but the early signs are that it will be a similar campaign. It is difficult to see the Royals matching the likes of Villarreal and Celta Vigo, who will expect to challenge Valencia and Sevilla – if they can recover from a poor start – for a place in the top four/six.
As for Bilbao, it has also been a disappointing start to the new campaign. Ernesto Valverde's side impressively beat Barcelona in the Spanish Super Cup in the middle of August, but were beaten 1-0 by the same opponents in the league on August 23. They then lost 2-0 at Basque rivals Eibar, but did record their first three points of the season at home to Getafe after the international break.
A 3-1 defeat at Villarreal kept Bilbao on three points, however, and they were then beaten 2-1 by Real Madrid on Wednesday. The Basque side put up a strong fight against Los Blancos, but a double from Karim Benzema proved the difference. Valverde's side have also been very busy in the Europa League this season and it will be interesting to see how the two competitions are balanced this term. At the moment, a return to stable form in Spain's top flight will be the main concern.
PREDICTION! Each of the last three derbies between these two teams have finished 1-1 and I am finding it difficult to separate the pair again here. I think that both will find the back of the net, but as much as I would like to plump for a 2-2 draw, it is difficult to see four goals occurring at the Anoeta. I am going to have to back yet another 1-1 draw - surely not for a fourth time in a row? We shall see!
KICK OFF! Here we go then - both sets of players join us on the pitch for the first period. It must be said that there is a wonderful atmosphere inside the stadium as the hosts get us underway here...
... there is no downplaying the importance of this match. It is vital for the fans, the players and the two managers. Win tonight and everything will be looking a lot rosier. As expected, it has been an untidy opening couple of minutes, with both teams battling for early possession of the ball.
Sociedad have taken control of the possession in the last couple of minutes, with Pardo and Zurutuza seeing plenty of ball in central areas. The latter slides a pass into Canales, but the Spaniard was in an offside position. Both teams are looking to play to their big strikers early on here.
I am not sure when the first yellow card will arrive this evening, but it will arrive, be sure of that. The referee has had a busy start to this match due to a number of late challenges, but neither team has been able to produce real quality thus far. As expected, both sides are showing plenty of energy.
CHANCE! Bilbao have the first real chance of the match as Garcia meets a loose ball just outside the Sociedad box, but his effort whistles wide of the post. Perhaps should have done better there!
It has been a good start from Bilbao, with the visitors making most of the early running at the Anoeta. Sociedad, on the other hand, have been frustrated by the offside flag thus far this evening.
BOOKING! Illarramendi (Sociedad) is booked for a poor challenge on Aduriz.
Sociedad and Inigo Martinez in particular just need to be a little bit careful at the moment as the home side continue to commit to late challenges. Inigo believes that his side are getting a tough deal from the referee, but Carlos Velasco is not interested. This definitely has a derby feel this evening!
Bilbao continue to play the better football in the final third, but aside from that Garcia effort, the visitors have not really come close to scoring thus far. Sociedad have played a lot of long balls in the opening 13 minutes, but the likes of Agirretxe and Vela have not really been in the match thus far.
CHANCE! Sociedad's first sight of goal comes to Agirretxe as the Spaniard releases a low strike from just inside the box, but it was a comfortable save for Iraizoz in the Bilbao net.
Bilbao call for a penalty following a mix-up inside the Sociedad box, but De la Bella did not make contact with his hand - good decision from the referee. There is a good tempo to this game here.
Not too much to report in terms of chances in the last couple of minutes, but Agirretxe is more in the game for the home side, with the Spaniard proving a problem to Bilbao's defensive unit.
It has been a very scrappy last five minutes or so, with both teams guilty of losing possession too easily in the final third. Sociedad have overcome a difficult start to enjoy a good period, but the home side have not yet threatened to break the deadlock. Interesting tactical battle out here tonight.
The ball must have spent more time in the air than on the deck in the opening 22 minutes, which is an indication of what type of game is occurring this evening. It is physical to say the least.
Ruben Pardo finds a yard of space for the home side before releasing a strike, but his effort was always rising over the crossbar. That has been the story of the game thus far - just half-chances.
Vela does well to collect a through ball from Zurutuza before setting up Pardo on the edge of the box, but the midfielder's effort is blocked by Laporte. Just a few signs that Sociedad are warming to their task here as they win a number of 50/50s in the middle of the park. Still goalless at the Anoeta.
You just get the feeling that the first goal - if there indeed is one - will be vital this evening. That is the case with most games, but especially in derbies and with these sides lacking confidence.
CHANCE! Much better from the home side as Zurutuza breaks down the left before delivering a low cross into Canales, but his goal-bound effort is deflected over the crossbar by Etxeita.
Bilbao have started to spread the play in the last couple of minutes, with Susaeta and Sabin both threatening in wide positions. That said, neither has been able to deliver into Aduriz thus far. Down the other end, Vela has gone quiet following a bright period. The opening 31 minutes have flown past here.
Garcia is coming in for some special treatment from the Sociedad supporters this evening, while some members of the home side's coaching staff have also had a word with the referee about a couple of late challenges from the former Atletico Madrid midfielder. A booking should soon follow!
There is a real tension to this match, which is good to see. This is what derbies should be like - full-blooded affairs. Still no goals, but both teams are doing their best to create opportunities here.
Little over five minutes of the first period remaining and to be truthful, there have not really been many clear-cut opportunities in this opening half of football. The late challenges continue to arrive from both teams, but the referee is doing a good job of keeping a lid on proceedings in this game.
BOOKING! Benat (Bilbao) is booked for a late challenge on Agirretxe.
CHANCE! Just about the best chance of the first period as Aduriz finds space inside the Sociedad box, but his goal-bound strike is blocked by Illarramendi. It looked to hit the hand of the midfielder, which brought an furious reaction from Aduriz, but the referee was not interested. Big call there!
Aduriz is clearly still wound up as he argues with Illarramendi and then the referee, but play continues with no further action. That is the standout moment of this first period, that is for sure.
The final pass has been lacking from both teams in this first period and another Sociedad move breaks down when Illarramendi fails to feed Canales. Still all square in this Basque derby tonight.
Vela goes for the spectacular outside the Bilbao box, but his strike was always weaving wide.
HALF-TIME: Sociedad 0-0 Bilbao
So there we have it. The referee brings the first period to a close with the two teams level at 0-0. It has not exactly been a half full of clear opportunities, but Bilbao will feel that they should have had a penalty late in the first period, with Illarramendi seemingly blocking a rasping Aduriz strike with his hand.
STATISTICS! Bilbao have just shaded the possession with 52%, while they have had three attempts, but none of those were on target. As for Sociedad, they have had seven attempts, but tested Iraizoz on just one occasion. As expected, it has been a half full of strong challenges and heated moments, but referee Velasco has only issued two yellow cards, with Benat and Illarramendi in the book.
BENCH WATCH! Sociedad have a number of attacking options on their bench this evening, with the likes of Castro, Jonathas, Prieto and Bruma all capable of making a difference. Bilbao, meanwhile, have options in the shape of Mikel Rico and fit-again Inaki Williams, who was so impressive last season.
RESTART! Both sets of players re-join us on the pitch for the second period. Will we have a breakthrough at the Anoeta? Let's hope so! It is Bilbao that get the second 45 minutes of action underway...
... no changes from either side at the break, which is not too much of a surprise. However, I suspect that both managers will already have some alterations in mind. Let's have some goals please!
On the face of it, a point would not be the worst outcome for either team this evening, but victory could be the platform for a strong run of form. Both managers are off their seats in the early stages of this second period, but as was the case in the first, it has been quite untidy from both teams.
You get the feeling that Bilbao would benefit from Inaki Williams's pace in this second period and it would not be a surprise to see Valverde turn to the striker over the course of the next 10, 15 minutes. Williams is fit again following a period on the sidelines and would provide a different threat.
CLOSE! Sociedad come close as Pardo delivers a super free kick towards the near post, but Aduriz manages to turn behind his own post for a corner. That could well have been an own goal!
BOOKING! Pardo (Sociedad) is booked for a poor challenge on Susaeta.
Aduriz meets a deep free kick from Susaeta, but his header is straight at Rulli.
The second half has been extremely stop-start, with the referee forced to intervene due to a number of late challenges that are occurring. Both teams have also been caught offside, which is further harming the flow of the match. In truth, we are in need of some quality at this stage of the game.
CHANCE! Easily the best chance of the game thus far as Zurutuza drives into the Bilbao box before finding Canales, but his low strike just moves wide of the far post. So close to 1-0 Sociedad there!
Still no movement on either bench, but we are approaching the stage of the match where both managers will be considering changes. The referee continues to remain sensitive to the nature of this game, meanwhile, with just three bookings issued, which is incredible based on what has occurred!
CLOSE! Canales drives down the right for Sociedad before attempting to deliver towards the far post, but the Spaniard's effort actually almost lands in the top corner, with Iraizoz losing the flight of the ball. Luckily for Bilbao, it bounces just behind for a goal kick, but there was some panic there!
Still goalless at the Anoeta with little under 30 minutes remaining. We need some quality...
... there is some shuffling on both benches, but no actual movement, which is a surprise. Bilbao have a half-chance as Benat strikes one from distance, but his effort was always moving wide.
The play continues to flow from end-to-end, but both teams have lacked quality in the final third this evening. You sense that one goal, if it comes, would be enough to win this game tonight.
CHANCE! Aduriz slips the Sociedad back four before advancing one-on-one with the Sociedad goalkeeper, but Rulli stands strong to make a very smart save. Good work from the Argentine!
The home supporters are staying with their team at the moment, but Bilbao have just stepped it up in the last couple of minutes, with Aduriz and Benat more involved in the final third. De Marcos delivers a super cross onto the head of Aduriz, but Garcia just cannot make first contact in the box.
BOOKING! Garcia (Bilbao) is booked for dissent.
Aduriz is becoming more and more involved in this game as the Spaniard again finds space inside the Sociedad box, but the door is closed by Inigo at the final moment and the chance is gone. Still no movement on either bench at the moment, which is a surprise at this stage of events here.
BOOKING! Inigo (Sociedad) is booked for a late challenge on Susaeta.
Bilbao have a free kick in a very dangerous area here...
... Benat takes the set piece, but his effort was always too high of the crossbar.
BILBAO SUB! Inaki Williams replaces Sabin in the first change of the match.
SOCIEDAD SUBS! Bruma and Prieto replace Canales and Zurutuza for the hosts.
Little over 15 minutes for either team to find a winner here. At the moment, Bilbao are the side forcing the issue, but the substitutions could change the course of the match.
BOOKING! Williams (Bilbao) is booked for a late challenge on Bruma.
In truth, it has been a very scrappy second period and neither team has really done enough to deserve to be leading at this stage. We are entering the stage of the match where one goal would surely be enough to claim all the points. Little over 10 minutes of this Basque derby remaining here.
Both of these teams have defended very well this evening, but both have really struggled in the final third, which will be a concern for both managers. Where are the goals coming from this season?
Illarramendi is a touch fortunate to still be on the field here after handling in the middle of the park. The Spaniard is already on a booking and that looked deliberate to me. Should be down to 10!
CHANCE! Fantastic chance for the home side to take the lead as Prieto finds space in a wide area before delivering a cross onto the head of Agirretxe, but his effort is straight into Iraizoz's arms.
BILBAO SUB! Benat is replaced by Iturraspe for the away side.
BOOKING! Etxeita (Bilbao) is booked for a late challenge on Vela.
The resulting free kick is delivered towards the near post, but De Marcos clears the danger.
Another half-chance for Sociedad as Prieto makes first contact on a corner from the left, but his header was always moving wide of the post. Little over five minutes remaining in this derby.
I think it would be fair to say that one goal at this stage would be enough to collect all the points. Both teams are committing players in the final third, but the overall quality has been lacking here.
Aduriz wins a header inside the Sociedad box, but it trickles behind for a goal kick.
SOCIEDAD SUB! Jonathas replaces Agirretxe for the home side.
CHANCES! Three massive chances in one for Sociedad, but Bilbao survive. First, a wonderful cross from Bruma causes all sorts of problems inside the Bilbao box, but Iraizoz manages to make two point-blank saves. Jonathas, who has only just come on, picks up the pieces and attempts to find the bottom corner, but Iraizoz makes another stop. Real scramble inside the penalty area there!
Suddenly this game has been given an injection of speed as Bilbao break down the other end with Williams, but the striker cannot get a clear shot on goal. End-to-end football at the moment...
... BILBAO SUB! Susaeta is replaced by Lekue.
We are into the second of three additional minutes at the Anoeta.
If there is to be a winner this evening then it has to come now. Sociedad are on the front foot as we approach the final moments, but there is hardly any time left. Heading for a draw here.
FULL-TIME: Sociedad 0-0 Bilbao
So there we have it. Zero goals at the Anoeta as the points are shared. In truth, it was not the best game of football that you will ever see, but both managers will be pleased with certain aspects of their team's performance. The result has moved Bilbao out of the relegation zone into 17th, while Sociedad remain five places above in 12th. Thanks for joining Sports Mole for the action. Until next time!