FC Zorya Luhansk vs Athletic Bilbao – Thursday, 07 December, 20:05 BST/21:05 CET – Arena Lviv, Lviv
Regarded as the underdog in the Europa League, Zorya Luhansk have battled to their highest abilities when facing their opponents. Previously beating Athletic Bilbao in Spain, the Ukrainian side surprised many with their victory. History throughout the European competition has shown that Ukrainian teams are far from a pushover, and Bilbao felt the full force of that.
Despite positives shining through in the Europa League, Zorya have struggled in the Ukrainian Premier League. Sitting in the sixth, Zorya have had a varied experience. Playing eighteen games, the Ukrainian side have five wins, nine draws and four losses. Despite having a relatively low amount of loses, Zorya have struggled to push for the three points. Losing to Shakhtar Donetsk in September, Zorya have been on a ten game unbeaten streak. The underlying issue for the Ukrainian side has been drawn, with seven occurring during their unbeaten streak. Zorya Luhansk will be hoping they can iron out these problems when facing Athletic Bilbao in Lviv. Beating the Spanish side previously, Zorya have the advantage in a game that can decide who advances to the Round of 32.
Athletic Bilbao have long been a force in Spain. Winning the La Liga, Copa del Ray and the Super Cup on multiple occasions, the Basque club prides itself on its identity. Unique in their policy of signing players native to the Basque region or who have learned their trade at a Basque club. A policy that has drawn critics over time, Athletic Bilbao have proved that priding themselves on their identity can work in the beautiful game.
Unfortunately for the club, their current season has been disappointing. Sitting in sixteenth with fourteen points, Bilbao look a shadow of their former selves. Failing to win a league game since October, José Ángel Ziganda will be hoping he can get his side back to winning form.
The Europa League has as equally as challenging for Athletic Bilbao. It took the Basque club till matchday 4 against Östersunds FK to register their first win in Group J. Drawing against Hertha Berlin and Östersund away from home, Athletic Bilbao were shocked when they were handed their first loss in the group stage by Zorya Luhansk. Losing at home due to a goal from Ihor Karatin, the Basque club went back to the drawing board with their tails between their legs.
Looking to take revenge in Lviv, Bilbao face the prospect of finishing top of Group J should results of their way, something that looked unlikely at the beginning of the group stage. The clash at the Arena Lviv will be one of passion. With both sides having an opportunity to advance to the Round of 32, everything will be left out on the pitch. Zorya Luhansk versus Athletic Bilbao will be a game to watch.
Zorya Luhansk vs Athletic Bilbao – Player to look for:
Silas #96 – FC Zorya Luhansk
Man of the Match in Zorya Luhansk’s Europa League clash against Hertha BSC at the Arena Lviv, Zorya’s midfielder is certainly going to be one to watch. Four shots, 69% pass accuracy, two take ons, two interceptions, one clearance, and two blocks against Hertha Berlin, the Brazilian caught the attention of many with his performance. Playing in midfield, Silas is the key component of everything Zorya does. Whether it be defence or attack, Silas is going to be there. Scoring against Berlin at the Arena Lviv, Silas helped put smiles on the face of Zorya fans in achieving three points and an impressive victory against their Bundesliga opponents. Roaming the midfield, Zorya’s Brazilian maestro will be central to the Ukrainian side’s performance in Lviv. Zorya will be looking for their Brazilian midfielder to produce the goods and make the most of the atmosphere at the Arena Lviv. If he can replicate his Man of the Match performance, Zorya will be within a good chance of advancing to the Round of 32.
Iñaki Williams #11 – Athletic Bilbao
One of the more impressive talents at Athletic Bilbao, Iñaki Williams, has been catching the eyes of many. Attracting the interest from clubs such as Arsenal, Liverpool and Manchester City, it’s clear that the Spaniard can do it all. Born in Bilbao, Williams lives and breathes what it means to play for the Basque club. Three goals and three assists in Bilabo’s lacklustre La Liga season, Williams continues to a bright spark in the side. Having the ability to produce the goods when it matters, the Spaniard can be a force to be reckoned with. Attacking down the right, Williams will look to create space and put pressure on the Zorya’s defence. The Ukrainian side will have to be on high alert at the Arena Lviv.
FC Zorya Luhansk vs Athletic Bilbao – Match Stats
- Zorya Luhansk can deny Athletic Bilbao a Round of 32 place with a win
- Athletic Bilbao finish top of Group J if they win and Östersunds FK loses
- Zorya Luhansk beat Athletic Bilbao in Spain on Matchday Two
Futbolgrad Network Prediction: Zorya Luhansk vs Athletic Bilbao 1-0
Zorya Luhansk vs Athletic Bilbao – Possible Lineups
FC Zorya Luhansk
Lunin – Sukhotskiy, Grechyshkin, Svatok, Opanasenko – Kharatin – Lunov, Silas, Gordiyenko, Karavayev – Iury
Coach: Yuriy Vernydub
Arrizabalaga – Balenziaga, Etxeita, Núñez, De Marcos – Rico, Iturraspe – Susaeta, Garcia, Williams – Aduriz
Coach: José Ángel Ziganda
Callum Seniuk is a History graduate from the United Kingdom who is an avid watcher of the Bundesliga. Losing his passion for the Premier League, Callum quickly found himself developing his love for the Bundesliga and German football. Channeling his Ukrainian heritage, Callum also follows and keeps track of Ukrainian Football. Follow Callum on Twitter @CallumSeniuk