Athletic worth backing for rare road victory
Panathinaikos v Athletic Bilbao
Kick-off 7.30pm Thursday
Athletic tend to do most of their best work in Bilbao but they look worth backing to gain a first-leg advantage from their Europa League playoff trip to Panathinaikos.
Cuco Ziganda has replaced now Barcelona boss Ernesto Valverde in the hotseat and rectifying Bilbao’s sorry away form will be on the agenda in ways of looking for improvement. Athletic lost 11 La Liga road fixtures last term – the same as relegated Sporting Gijon.
There’s no real explanation for Athletic’s away woes because they have excellent players with Aymeric Laporte and Inaki Williams remaining at the club despite being linked with big-money moves.
Panathinaikos have had no such luck in that department and must find a way of replacing the goals of Swedish striker Marcus Berg, who switched to Al-Ain in the summer.
Berg was hugely successful in Greece with goal tallies if 25-13-15-23 and last season’s career-best effort won him the domestic Golden Boot. Nobody else in the Pana squad managed to score more than six league goals.
Milan, who have named new signing Leonardo Bonucci as their skipper for the season, are long odds-on to beat Macedonian minnows Shkendija at San Siro.
Lucas Biglia and Alessio Romagnoli are sidelined for the Rossoneri, who are expected to start with Andre Silva leading their attack.
1pt 23-20 general