Mid-Season Report: Athletic Club

Athletic Club Men’s Team:

It has been a very positive first half of the 2023-24 season for the Athletic Club men’s team. They have performed above expectations, playing some exciting attacking football, and are in contention for Champions League qualification.

They overcame an opening day defeat at home to Real Madrid to climb up to fifth spot after round three of the La Liga season and have hovered around that position ever since. The only other two defeats came in tricky away fixtures at Real Sociedad and Barcelona and their current unbeaten run stretches back to the 22nd of October.

Athletic Club negotiated the first two rounds of the Copa del Rey, dispatching UE Rubí and CD Cayón away from home and they face a trip to Eibar in round three in early January 2024, so there’s solid progress on all fronts.

The Williams brothers, Iñaki and Nico, have been in scintillating form in attack, both scoring and providing the ammunition for Gorka Guruzeta, who has plundered eight goals himself so far. Oihan Sancet has been pulling the strings, with three goals and four assists of his own as the Bilbao attacking machine terrorises defences up and down the country. They’ll approach 2024 with much optimism.

Athletic Club Women’s Team:

It has been a mediocre season so far for Athletic Club Femenino as they aim to improve on their ninth place finish in the 2022-23 Liga F Primera División. They have been strong at home but disappointing on their travels, with only one win on the road prior to Christmas. They end the calendar year in joint eighth place in the table, level with Levante Las Planas and UDCA Tenerife on 16 points from 12 games, but with an inferior goal difference to those two.

Athletic Club are a comfortable thirteen points clear of the relegation zone, so there’s no concern on that front, and they can aim to move up the table in the new year. They are only two points behind seventh placed Real Sociedad and three points behind Sevilla in sixth, who they held to a 1-1 draw away from home in their last match of 2023.

Athletic Club entered the Copa de la Reina at the Third Round stage in November and easily dispatched Granada with a thumping 4-1 away win. They were handed a tricky looking home tie for the Round of 16, where they will face Madrid CF in mid-January 2024. Madrid are currently fourth in the Liga F table and have already won away in Bilbao this season, so it’ll be a tough test for Iraia Iturregi’s team.

Bilbao Athletic:

Athletic Club’s reserve team, commonly known as ‘Bilbao Athletic’, are currently competing in the Segunda Federación (or Segunda B), which is the fourth tier of the Spanish football pyramid. It sits below La Liga, La Liga 2 and the two regionalised groups of the Primera Federación. Bilbao Athletic were relegated from the Primera Federación at the end of the 2022-23 season and are now in Group 2 of the five group Segunda Federación.

Chasing an immediate return to the third tier, they got their campaign off to a slow start with a draw and a defeat in their opening two matches. However, they then embarked on a thirteen match winning run which continued right up until their final game of the year when they were held to a 1-1 draw away at Gernika. By then, they had built up a commanding lead at the top of the 18 team Segunda B Group 2 table and look on course to secure the one and only automatic promotion spot. They go into 2024 with a seven point lead over second placed Utebo and will have high hopes of maintaining that until the season’s end in May.

Bilbao Athletic also fielded a team in the 2023-24 edition of the Premier League International Cup, where they were in Group C. They earned a 1-1 draw at Crystal Palace in their opening game in September, but were narrowly edged out in their subsequent two fixtures. A 1-0 defeat at Everton in November was followed by a 2-1 reverse at Fulham in December. They have still to face Liverpool in January, but are unfortunately already out of contention for a top two spot in the group that would qualify them for the next phase.

Club Deportivo Basconia

CD Basconia is effectively the third team of Athletic Bilbao and they currently compete in the Tercera Federación, which is at the fifth tier of the Spanish football pyramid. The Tercera Federación is divided into 18 groups of 18 teams and Basconia are in Group 4, which corresponds geographically to the Basque County. Only the champions of each group are promoted automatically and the second to fifth placed teams qualify for the promotion play-offs. Basconia finished fourth in 2022-23 and they are hoping for a repeat performance this time around.

They began the 2023-24 season somewhat inconsistently, and were struggling in the bottom half after the first six games. However, their form improved from the middle of October onwards and they went on an eight match unbeaten run up to the end of the year, winning six and drawing two of their most recent fixtures. That run has hauled them up to fifth place in the table at Christmas, with a comfortable five point gap to San Ignacio in sixth. Basconia are only five points behind Beasain in second, and eight behind leaders Vitoria, so there’s everything to play for in the second half of the season.