Athletic Club have had enough of Eduardo Berizzo’s coaching; he’s been sacked after yesterday’s loss to Levante, in which the Basque side were pretty uncompetitive by all accounts.
Gaizka Garitano, who coached Eibar to promotion and kept them up (sort of; remember they survived because Elche were relegated for financial irrgularities) takes over as first-team coach for now; he had been coaching their youth side.
One of the oddities of the timing here is that Athletic Club have elections for club president December 27, so it makes sense to have a caretaker manager for now. The new president could presumably appoint a permanent “mister” before the La Liga season resumes January 5.
Yesterday’s match was noteworthy also inasmuch as Cristian Ganea made his league debut for Los Leones. Why is that noteworthy? Because he is the first non-Basque (i.e. not of Basque descent, nor born in the Basque Country as defined) to play for Athletic. That doesn’t mean they’ve changed their “Basque only” policy—Cristian, rather like ex-Villarreal C player Florin Andone, moved to Spain (in this case, Basuari in the Basque Country) and played in youth teams in the province, which made him eligible under the club’s policy.
Ganea, in fact, played for the Basque Country youth team in 2010 (he’s now 26), but ended up playing in the Romanian league from 2013-18 before being signed by Athletic this summer.
Meanwhile, Villarreal’s opponents tomorrow, Almería, have announced their travelling squad for the encounter at the Ceramíca tomorrow, and it is:
Keepers: Fernando (13), Albert Batalla (32).
Defenders: Adri Montoro (22), Trujillo (5), Juan Ibiza (15), Saveljich (24), Urri (27), Nano (21), Iván Martos (29).
Midfielders: Arzura (23), Mario Abenza (36), Chema (8), Juan Carlos Real (10), Gaspar (7), Corpas (17), Lin (39)
Strikers: Juanjo Narváez (12), Sekou (19).
As you’ll note from the squad numbers in parentheses, they are bringing five “B-teamers” in their team. Gaspar Panadero is a player who was injured last April and this would be a first return to action for him, while Nano was injured in their first league match and hasn’t played since. Caballero and Eteki, who played against us in the first leg, are left out; note Sekou, who got the two goals late on to get the draw, is likely to start in Caballero’s place.
The Andalusian side have not won away since September and have drawn their last three Segunda matches, so their form hasn’t been great of late (one win, five draws, two losses in their last eight matches, following a run of six wins in seven). Yes, away goals do count double in the Copa.
More of a preview later when (if) we learn anything about Villarreal’s side for tomorrow.