Bilbao sweat over Nico fitness ahead of Copa del Rey semifinal-Xinhua

Bilbao sweat over Nico fitness ahead of Copa del Rey semifinal

Source: Xinhua

Editor: huaxia

2024-02-06 19:57:17

MADRID, Feb. 6 (Xinhua) -- Atletico Madrid and Athletic Club Bilbao play the first leg of their Copa del Rey semifinal in the Metropolitano Stadium on Wednesday night with the visitors sweating over the fitness of star player Nico Williams.

The Spain international, who has been in outstanding form this season, suffered a groin strain in Friday's 4-0 win at home to Mallorca and had to be substituted. Nico didn't train with the rest of his companions on Monday and his presence depends on whether he improves over the next 48 hours.

Nico's elder brother, Inaki, who was the hero of Athletic's 4-2 win over Barcelona in the last round after an overnight flight back from the African Cup of Nations, also had to leave the pitch last Friday with a foot problem, but has recovered in time to start on Wednesday.

Atletico Madrid is unhappy with the timing of the match for Wednesday, coming just three days after their draining 1-1 draw in Sunday's derby away to Real Madrid, while their rivals enjoyed a 4-0 cruise past Mallorca on Friday night, giving them an extra 48 hours preparation time.

Athletic Club president Jon Uriarte commented on Tuesday that he didn't think the extra 48 hours would make a big difference, given the depth of Atletico's squad, and pointed out that Atletico has an extra 24 hours to prepare the return leg at the end of the month.

Atletico coach Diego Simeone could opt to start with Memphis Depay in attack after leaving him on the bench on Sunday.

Injuries to Cesar Azpilicueta and Jose Gimenez have limited Atletico's options in defense, but left back Reinildo Mandava is back and fit again after his appearances in the African Cup and will probably start.

Athletic Club produced an impressive display to dispatch Atletico 2-0 in San Mames in their previous meeting this season, and should have won by more as Atletico was blown away by the speed and power of the Basque side.