Preview: Sevilla vs. Athletic Bilbao

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Sports Mole previews Thursday’s La Liga clash between Sevilla and Athletic Bilbao, including predictions, team news and possible lineups.

Quique Sanchez Flores will take charge of his first home game as Sevilla manager when his side face Athletic Bilbao in Thursday’s La Liga encounter.

The hosts are currently languishing in 16th position, while the visitors begin the new year in 15th place in the league table.

Match preview
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Sevilla have experienced a difficult season up until this point, having already changed managers on two occasions in a campaign where they have struggled on both domestic and European fronts.

Having won just three of their 18 league matches, Sevilla sit just three points above the bottom three, while the Europa League winners are also out of Europe after they finished bottom of a Champions League group that featured Arsenal, PSV Eindhoven and Lens.

Sanchez Flores, who replaced Diego Alonso in December, has experienced a mixed start to his tenure, winning 3-0 against Granada in his opening fixture, before he saw his side fall to a narrow 1-0 defeat in La Liga’s final match of 2023.

After beginning his reign with consecutive away matches, Sanchez Flores will hope to get off to a winning start at the Ramon Sanchez Pizjuan, but claiming all three points will be easier said than done, as Sevilla have failed to win any of their last seven competitive home matches (D4, L3).

If the Andalusian side are looking for a source of inspiration, they should take a glance at their recent head-to-head record, which reads three wins and one draw in their last four meetings with Athletic Bilbao.

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In contrast to their opponents, Athletic will be pleased with their efforts in the 2023-24 campaign, having won 10, drawn five and lost just three of their 18 league games this season.

Ernesto Valverde’s charges rounded off 2023 with a dramatic victory over newly-promoted Las Palmas, with 20-year-old Unai Gomez coming off the bench to net a 94th-minute winner, extending the club’s unbeaten run to 10 matches in all competitions (W7, D3).

With just three points separating them from the top four, Athletic are beginning to dream about the prospect of returning to the Champions League for the first time since the 2014-15 season.

Although they have won each of their last four home matches in La Liga, the Basque side have struggled to replicate that sort of success on the road, with their previous five away league games producing one win, two draws and two defeats.

They have also found it difficult to win at the Ramon Sanchez Pizjuan, having won just one of their previous 11 away games against Sevilla in La Liga (D4, L7), although they have managed to take at least a point from three of their last four head-to-head away meetings (W1, D2).

Sevilla La Liga form:

Sevilla form (all competitions):

Athletic Bilbao La Liga form:

Athletic Bilbao form (all competitions):

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Team News
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Sevilla have a number of injury concerns ahead of Thursday’s fixture, including Dodi Lukebakio, Joan Jordan and Jesus Navas.

They could also be without the services of Orjan Nyland, Marcos Acuna, Loic Bade, Mariano Diaz and Erik Lamela.

In addition to a lengthy injury list, Sanchez Flores is unable to call upon forward Youssef En-Nesyri, who is away with Morocco preparing for the African Cup of Nations.

As for Athletic, midfielder Dani Garcia remains sidelined with an injury issue that has kept him out of action since November.

Yeray Alvarez and Inigo Ruiz de Galarreta are both rated doubtful, while Inaki Williams is with the Ghana squad ahead of the African Cup of Nations in the Ivory Coast.

With the 29-year-old away on international duty, Alex Berenguer could be presented with the chance to make his fourth league start of the season.

Sevilla possible starting lineup:
Dmitrovic; Salas, Ramos, Gudelj; Juanlu, Rakitic, Soumare, Pedrosa; Suso, Ocampos, Mir

Athletic Bilbao possible starting lineup:
Simon; Lekue, Vivian, Paredes, Berchiche; Prados, Herrera; N. Williams, Sancet, Berenguer; Guruzeta

We say: Sevilla 1-1 Athletic Bilbao
While Athletic may be unbeaten in 10 competitive matches, they have had to settle for draws in their last two away games in La Liga, and we think they will have to be content with a point when they face a Sevilla side that has drawn four of their previous five home league matches.

For data analysis of the most likely results, scorelines and more for this match please click here.

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