Real Sociedad and Athletic Bilbao do battle in the most important Basque derby of recent times on Sunday.
La Real’s rise to fifth place in La Liga leaves them just four points behind Atletico Madrd, who occupy the fourth and final Champions League spot.
The feel-good factor at Anoeta has also been boosted by the new contract signed by Eusebio Sacristan, which has gone some way towards cooling links between the Coach and Barcelona.
“We’re in an important part of the season because there are only 12 games left, and in this game, there are two teams with great aspirations,” he said at a Press conference.
“There have been some games against direct rivals that we haven’t been able to win and we have the desire to win this time around.
“We have to focus on our motivation in order to win this game and we know the happiness that a win will give our fans.”
The same, however, cannot be said about Ernesto Valverde, another trainer linked with the Barca dugout.
Athletic Bilbao President Josu Urrutia refused to confirm Valverde would stay on next season, although their form – while inconsistent – sees them just four points behind a Europa League berth.
“Our confidence is intact,” asserted the Coach.
“It’s an issue that we haven’t started talking about because it’s something we have to stop. When we have to say something, it’ll be said.”
Athletic have just striker Sabin Merino missing, while La Real are once more without top goalscorer Willian Jose.
La Real have not lost a Basque derby at home since October 2011 but have won just four of their last 10 home games, including none in their most recent two.
Real Sociedad (probable): Rulli; Odriozola, Yuri, Navas, Inigo; Illarramendi, Prieto, Zurutuza; Vela, Juanmi, Oyarzabal
Injuries/suspensions: Sabin (I)
Athletic Bilbao (probable): Iraizoz; De Marcos, Yeray, Laporte, Balenziaga; Benat, San Jose; Williams, Garcia, Muniain; Aduriz
Injuries/suspensions: Agirretxe (I) Carlos (I) Willian Jose (I)
Referee: Sanchez Martinez
Form guide: La Real (W D W L W) Athletic (W L W L W)
Previous meeting: Athletic 3-2 Real
Kick-off time: 11:00 GMT/12:00 CET