Athletic Bilbao vs Espanyol

Estadio San Mames is the venue as Athletic Bilbao and Espanyol go head-to-head in an exciting Copa del Rey last-16 tie.

Real Sociedad crushed Athletic Bilbao’s spirits last weekend, claiming a comprehensive 3-1 win in the latest edition of the Basque derby, knocking Ernesto Valverde’s side down from a six-match unbeaten run in all competitions (W4, D2). Before losing in San Sebastian, Bilbao had alternated between victories (2) and defeats (2) across their four previous competitive outings, highlighting consistency as a chief problem. Despite winning all three Copa del Rey assignments this term via an aggregate score of 9-1, this will be their first tie versus fellow La Liga rivals. ‘Los Leones’ can draw confidence from keeping a clean sheet in their last three home matches against top-flight clubs (W2, D1). By contrast, they’ve managed just one shutout across their five previous home H2Hs against Espanyol (W2, D1, L2).

On the other hand, Espanyol’s Copa del Rey exploits are probably the only consolation for ‘Los Periquitos’ in an otherwise unpleasant 2022/23 season. After easing past a couple of lower-league sides in the opening two rounds, they ousted Celta Vigo last time out, courtesy of a 3-1 extra-time win to set up this tie. Diego Martinez’s men have built on that psychological impact, scoring precisely twice in two subsequent La Liga games (W1, D1), including a 2-1 victory at Getafe last weekend. That result marked Espanyol’s first away triumph against top-flight opposition since a 1-0 win at non-other than Bilbao in September, ending an underwhelming run of six winless road trips to meet La Liga clubs (D4, L2).

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