Bilbao hope for positive start

Bilbao’s build-up to the new campaign has been dominated by

speculation over the futures of striker Fernando Llorente and

midfielder Javi Martinez.

Llorente has told the club he will not extend his current deal

when it runs out at the end of the season, attracting interest from

across Europe, while Martinez has been linked with a move to Bayern


It has prevented Athletic from being able to prepare for

tomorrow’s opener away from the spotlight, but midfielder Carlos

Gurpegui is confident the team can get on with their job.

“I’m really looking forward to the new season,” he said on

“Exciting times are ahead. We have a young team, we have always

been competitive and will continue to be. I can’t wait to run out

on the pitch.

“The atmosphere is positive. There have been distractions but we

will try and give everything we can to ensure Athletic finish as

high up the table as possible to make our fans proud.”

Bilbao have doubts over the fitness of Iker Muniain, who has a

right leg injury. Fernando Amorebieta is recovering from groin

surgery while Jon Aurtenetxe is also sidelined with a groin


Betis have had distractions of their own during pre-season, with

club president Miguel Guillen among those involved in a dispute

with the Football League (LFP) over television rights and


Several La Liga clubs have voiced their unhappiness at what they

perceive to be a bias towards Barcelona and Real Madrid,

threatening to strike over the issue.

Action was avoided following a meeting this week between the

clubs and the LFP, but Guillen is aware it will take time for the

matter to be fully resolved.

“We must have a solution but it will not be ready tomorrow,” he

told Betis’ radio station.

“It is nevertheless an important step that a large group of

clubs strongly disagree with some of the decisions made by the


“It is a very important step that the president of the Sports

Council is aware of which issues need dealing with and will now

intervene and help solve these structural problems which are taking

their toll on the league.”

On the pitch, Joel Campbell is expected to return to training

today after playing for Costa Rica in midweek.