Athletic Bilbao and Real Sociedad have both been given pre-derby boosts as midfielders Raul Garcia and David Zurutuza are back for their respective teams.
Garcia damaged the medial ligament in his left knee during Athletic’s trip to Sevilla on January 9, subsequently ruling him out of the side’s next nine games, but he is free to make his comeback against La Real in La Liga on Sunday.
Speaking ahead of the game, however, his Coach Ernesto Valverde refused to confirm whether the former Atletico Madrid man would feature at San Mames, although he hinted at changes from the 1-0 win at Marseille on Thursday.
“We had the game at Marseille and were very focused on it, but the problem is that we have to respond quickly. That’s the price we pay [for competing in Europe],” he noted at a Press conference.
“Still, the derby is a special game, which must be played in a special way, and we expect to be at our best for it.”
Zurutuza, meanwhile, has been passed fit for the first time in over three months after being sidelined with a thigh injury, but Real boss Eusebio Sacristan was more concerned about his players keeping their cool against their arch-rivals.
“The players must stay calm and control their emotions,” he remarked.
“Both teams are in good form. I expect a game which will be hotly contested, so we have to be prepared.
“I’m sure we’ll respond to the challenge of competing against Athletic.”
Athletic and La Real played out a 0-0 draw during their last meeting at Anoeta in September, while the two Coaches were teammates at Barcelona between 1998 and 1990.
Athletic Bilbao squad: Iraizoz, Herrerin; Boveda, Laporte, San Jose, Gurpegi, Balenziaga, Lekue; Elustondo, Benat, Iturraspe, Garcia, De Marcos, Susaeta; Muniain, Williams, Aduriz, Viguera
Real Sociedad squad: Rulli, Olazabal; Zaldua, Elustondo, Mikel, Reyes, Inigo, De la Bella, Yuri; Markel, Pardo, Prieto, Illarramendi, Zurutuza, Oyarzabal; Bruma, Vela, Jonathas