Athletic Bilbao vs Malaga

Ernesto Valverde believes tonight’s game against Malaga is crucial to Athletic Bilbao’s Champions League aspirations.

Valverde’s team are currently fourth, three points clear of Sevilla, and after tonight will have five games remaining – the same as Unai Emery’s side.

Athletic host both Sevilla and Real Sociedad, who are also in the hunt for a top four spot, before the season comes to a close, and Valverde wants a substantial points lead before those fixtures.

“The other two home games are no doubt important but the key is this game,” Marca reports Valverde as saying at a pre-match Press conference.

It was put to Valverde that Sevilla are disadvantaged by competing in the Europa League semi-finals, with the resulting exertion on the players.

“It’s mitigated by the good feeling [produced by wins],” Valverde countered.

“They’re a rival like Sociedad or Villarreal and I’m not worried about them.

“We have to worry about us, whether it comes down to the Sevilla game or not.”

Valverde added that he is also worried about Malaga, who have won their last two games.

“They’ve had rough times but now they’re on a winning streak that puts them very close to safety,” Valverde said.

“The’re picking up points and that makes them dangerous.”