Athletic Y I raised they open this Thursday in San Mamés a tie that both faced with the illusion and the intention of making history, the Bilbao team for the possibility of having three finals in the same season and the Valencian team for reaching the final match of the Copa del Rey for the first time.
They are two clubs that, by the way, have their claims with this competition. Since Athletic adds to its list of twenty-three titles that of the Coronation Cup of 1902, the precursor of the tournament, and Levante considers the Free Spain Cup, won in the midst of the civil war, in 1937, in Republican territory.
While waiting for both to receive official recognition, the two teams are now focused on a confrontation in the semifinals of the Copa del Rey that does nothing but reward the accumulated merits.
Those of Athletic the recent Super Cup won in January against Real Madrid and Barcelona, and its subsequent career in a Cup in which it comes out to agonizing comeback per round in Ibiza, Alcoy and Benito Villamarín. Also in the Super Cup he starred in a sounded somersault in the final against Barça.
Is he Marcelino effect, a technician who since his arrival on the Bilbao bench has only continued with the cup-winning miracles of the Garitano era, who reached the final of the previous year after four epic classifications, some almost incredible.
That unprecedented final against its neighbor Real Sociedad that was postponed to this year so that there could be an audience in the stands, something already impossible, La Cartuja will be held on April 3. Which was where the Super Cup final was played and two weeks later, on the 17th, it will also host this season’s final.
In this new final, Athletic wants to return to be there to round off the course with three finals out of three possible and, if the opportunity arises, achieve a ‘triplet’. It does not lead astray, since add a title and two endings. And he is two games from the third final and four from winning three titles. With whom he dreams.
But the first thing will be to overcome Levante and start doing it in the first leg. A clash for Marcelino García Toral is pending for two capital players since his arrival in Bilbao in early January. Captain Iker Muniain, in splendid shape, and Asier Villalibre, key in the comebacks against Alcoyano and Barcelona, and an icon already in the celebrations to the rhythm of his trumpet.
It seems that both may be available and Muniain, of course, in the starting team. A block for which the Asturian coach bet since his arrival and that is giving him huge benefits.
An eleven with Unai Simón under sticks; Ander Capa, Yeray Álvarez, Íñigo Martínez and Yuri Berchiche in the defensive line of four; Dani García and the renewed Unai Vencedor in the double pivot; captains Muniain and Oscar de Marcos on the midfield bands; Y Raúl García and Williams as the most advanced players.
If they make any changes, they would be Iñigo Lekue for Capa on the right side and / or Mikel Vesga for Vencedor in the center of the field. To replace Muniain, in case he cannot play, Alex Berenguer and young Jon Morcillo choose.
Levante, for its part, travels to San Mamés euphoric and convinced of being able to make history, since it is the second time that he has played in the semifinals of the Copa del Rey, 86 years after his first participation, and never played a final.
The Valencian team has a brilliant career in 2021, as it has only lost one match between the League and the Copa del Rey and it was in the first match of the year against Villarreal at La Cerámica.
Levante’s path to the semifinals has been relatively accessible until the quarter-final tie, since before beating Villarreal 1-0 with a goal from Roger in the last minute of extra time, they eliminated Real Valladolid, Fuenlabrada, Second, Portugalete, Second B, and Racing Murcia, Third.
Footballers José Campaña and Nikola Vukcevic will miss this match due to injury. If Paco López maintains the plan exhibited so far in the Copa del Rey, the young Cárdenas will be in goal and footballers like Coke and Toño, with a very secondary role in the League, would be headlines on the sides of the defense.
Malsa, De Frutos and Bardhi seem fixed for the midfield, since all three were substitutes in last Saturday’s game against Granada and the French player did not even take the field in the second half.
One of the great surprises of the starting team in Bilbao could be the absence of Morales and Roger, which are the team’s top scorers with eleven and ten goals, respectively, between the League and the Cup.
Athletic: Unai Simon; Capa, Yeray, Íñigo Martínez, Yuri; De Marcos, Dani García, Vencedor, Muniain; Raúl García and Williams.
I raised: Cárdenas, Coke, Vezo, Duarte, Toño, Son, Malsa, Melero, De Frutos, Bardhi and Dani Gómez.
Referee: Jesús Gil Manzano (Extremadura Committee). VAR referee: José Luis González González (Castilian and Leonés Committee).
Stadium: San Mamés.