Elche vs Athletic Bilbao preview - Valverde wary of Elche threat

Posted Sunday, May 17, 2015 by PA

Athletic Bilbao coach Ernesto Valverde has warned that facing an Elche side with nothing to play for could be "a double edged sword" for his team.

Athletic head to the Martinez Valero stadium in need of a victory to keep up their hopes of pipping Malaga to the final Europa League spot, while Elche will only have their personal pride at stake, as they clinched survival a fortnight ago.

However, Valverde will not be fooled into thinking his side will have it easy.

"Theory tells you that the best team to face is one who have nothing to play for, but Elche have lost that fear they had earlier on in the season and they are finishing the season very well," the coach told a press conference.

"They deserve an enormous amount of credit. They have secured survival with a few games to spare and that makes me cautious."

Athletic are one point behind Malaga in the race to finish seventh, and Javi Gracia's side will be in action at the same time as the Basques, travelling to Villarreal, who, like Elche, have nothing to play for after sealing sixth place last week.

However, Valverde is convinced Villarreal will be professional.

He said: "I'm certain Villarreal are not going to give anything away to Malaga, but I'm not worried about Villarreal, I'm just concerned that we win and that we stay in the battle, because that's what we wanted to do at the start of the season. It's the objective we marked for ourselves at the start of the season."

Valverde announced that former Elche player Xabier Etxeita will miss the game against his old side with a muscle problem, joining Andoni Iraola, Ibai Gomez and Iker Muniain in sitting out the match through injury.

Elche are just without Jose Angel Alonso and David Lomban for their final home game of the season, and coach Fran Escriba insists his side will give their all in search of victory, to show their appreciation for the club's supporters.

He told a press conference: "We'd like to give our supporters another win to celebrate because they have played a crucial role in getting us out of the relegation zone and we want them to enjoy this match."

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