Preview: Athletic Bilbao vs. Levante

Cup specialists Athletic Bilbao will be looking to remain on course for more silverware when they host Levante in the first leg of their Copa del Rey semi-final on Thursday.

The Lions won the Supercopa de Espana last month and are still waiting to face Real Sociedad in last season’s rescheduled Copa del Rey final, which is set to be held in April.

Levante have never won any major cups but will see this as a huge opportunity to change that given that they sit above Athletic in the La Liga table.
Athletic will consider themselves hugely fortunate to still be in contention for what could technically be back-to-back Copa crowns after surviving a big scare in the last round.

Raul Garcia scored a 94th minute equaliser for Athletic against Real Betis before the Basque side went on to win 4-1 on penalties.

Marcelino’s side also played away in the previous two rounds, seeing off Ibiza and Alcoyano – the side that knocked out Real Madrid – by the same 2-1 scoreline.

Levante have had to come through five rounds to make it this far, most recently beating Villarreal 1-0 in extra time in the quarter-finals thanks to Roger Marti’s last-gasp goal.

Including their cup victories, the Frogs are now unbeaten in nine matches since early January and are ninth in La Liga with 27 points.
That is two more points than 11th-placed Athletic, who played out a 1-1 draw with Valencia in their most recent league match.
The sides may be battling it out for a place in Europe next season, but for now both teams will be fully focused on progressing in the Copa del Rey.

The second leg of the tie is scheduled to take place at Estadio Ciutat de Valencia on March 4, with the winners over 120 minutes – or potentially more – to face either Barcelona or Sevilla in the final.

Athletic won 2-0 when the sides last met in the league four months ago – the Lions’ fourth successive victory over Levante, each of those games in the league.

Athletic Bilbao Copa del Rey form: WWW
Athletic Bilbao form (all competitions): WWWLWD

Levante Copa del Rey form: WWWWW
Levante form (all competitions): DDWWWD

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