Athletic Bilbao can hardly lay claim to being one of the elite clubs of the competition after losing to a current top-four La Liga (LL) side for a fifth consecutive occasion when being edged out 1-0 away to Atlético Madrid last round. A difficult recent schedule can be partly blamed for four losses from their last six LL matches (W2), though their wins against Cádiz (4-1) and Valencia (2-1) have kept their pursuit of a European berth alive.

In LL, things haven’t really gone to plan for manager Ernesto Valverde and his players since the World Cup (W2, D2, L4), and based on that record they appear in poorer shape than when they lost to upcoming opponents Girona in the reverse H2H last November (2-1). Buoyed by the extension of his contract last week until the end of 2023/24, Valverde focused on the positives following the loss to Atlético, which there were “quite a lot of” according to their longest-serving manager.

Girona have a W2, L3 record from their last five LL outings, but their bid for survival received a welcome boost last round when they recorded their second-largest LL winning margin of all-time with a 6-2 victory at home to Almería. Manager Míchel stated the obvious when describing it as “our best day of the season” in terms of attack, but it was far from the perfect game defensively as they conceded 2+ goals for the seventh time in 17 LL matches.

In fact, with just one clean sheet between them in the last six LL rounds (Girona’s 1-0 win at home to Valencia), it wouldn’t surprise to see a blitz of goals at both ends. That would continue a rich scoring history between Athletic boss Valverde and Girona (both teams scoring in five of six matches) and also between these managers (both teams scoring in all three matches).

Players to watch: Athletic forward Gorka Guruzeta was their only goal scorer in the previous H2H and registered a double in their last LL win ‘to nil’, whilst Girona’s Iván Martín was on the scoresheet in that reverse H2H as well as Girona’s history-making win last round.

Hot streak: Girona’s 24 competitive matches in 2022/23 so far have all seen at least one goal scored.