Madrid, Feb 28 (IANS) Osasuna entertain Athletic Club Bilbao in the first leg of the first semi-final of the Copa del Rey knockout competition in their El Sadar Stadium on Wednesday night.
The game will be played in front of a packed house, with the home side who have never won the cup looking to take a step towards their first final since 2005.
Athletic Club are looking to end a 39-year period without winning the cup, after qualifying for and losing finals in 2009, 2012, 2015, 2020 and 2021 although the last two matches were both played in April 2021 due to the COVID-19 pandemic, a Xinhua report said.
The two sides are next to each other in La Liga, with Osasuna currently eighth, while Athletic lie ninth, just a point below them. Osasuna will go into the game with their morale sky high after a 3-2 win away to Sevilla whom they defeated in the quarter-final on Sunday night.
Coach Jagoba Arrasate rested key players, Chimy Avila and Lucas Torro in Seville and they can be expected to start, while Sergio Herrera will play in goal.
Athletic make the short trip to Pamplona after a disastrous weekend, which not only saw them produce a chaotic first-half display to lose 3-2 at home to Girona, but also lose five players through injury.
Yeray Alvarez, Unai Simon and Jon Morcillo all had to be substituted during Sunday’s game, while Spain international winger, Nico Williams suffered a knee injury in training on Saturday and former Osasuna forward, Raul Garcia twisted his shoulder.
Garcia could be fit to play, but the others are all doubts, with Morcilla certainly missing out with a fractured collarbone.
Simon would not have played anyway as Julen Agirrezabala has been playing in goal in the Cup, but it means a keeper from Athletic’s B-team will be on the subs’ bench.
Inigo Martinez and Ander Herrera could be in the squad for Wednesday, but neither is likely to start after long injury lay-offs.
The fact the match is close to being a local derby and the rivalry between the two sides will only heighten the tension as Osasuna look to take a lead for the return leg in Bilbao on April 4.
The first leg of the second semi-final between Real Madrid and FC Barcelona will be played in the Santiago Bernabeu Stadium on Thursday.