Athletic Bilbao boss Marcelo Bielsa has been forced to reshape his defence before Thursday’s Europa League clash with Slaven Belupo.
The Argentine will have to do without the absent Javi Martinez – still with the Spanish Olympic squad despite their elimination from the London Games – and the injured Fernando Amorebieta for the clash with the Croatians at San Mames.
Consequently, Bielsa has tried a mixture of youth and experience in training this week, reports El Correo, pairing youngster Jonas Ramalho with veteran skipper Carlos Gurpegui.
Inigo Perez and Andoni Iraola are expected to make up the rest of the back line, although Bielsa has also experimented with Igor Martinez and Ismael Lopez on the flanks.
Iraola believes it is imperative the Basques take a comfortable lead with them into the second leg at the 4,000-capacity Gradski Stadion in seven days time.
“We are obliged to get a good result because we are the favourites, something that we will naturally have to take on board,” said the 30-year-old.