Five things you may not know about the Basque derby
There have been 143 LaLiga Basque derbies to date, with Athletic winning 58 times, La Real 48, and 37 draws. Saturday's 144th meeting will be one between evenly-contested sides punching above their weight in LaLiga.
What else should you know?
1. This fixture goes way, way back. Since 1929, LaLiga’s inaugural season, the Basque derby between Athletic Club from Bilbao and Real Sociedad of San Sebastian has become one of the most important fixtures in LaLiga history
2. This fixture has directly yielded championships. The start of the 1980s was dominated by Basque football. Real Sociedad won the league title in the 1980/81 and 1981/82 seasons, before Athletic Club took the LaLiga crown east to Bilbao in 1982/83 and 1983/84. Incredibly, both clubs actually won one of their titles in this derby.
3. Some of LaLiga’s most iconic players have played in this fixture: Telmo Zarra (the league’s all-time top goalscorer until 2014), goalkeeper Andoni Zubizarreta, cultured playmaker Julen Guerrero, young winger Iñaki Williams and evergreen prolific frontman Aritz Aduriz.
4. Real Sociedad have never knocked Athletic out the cup: While both sides have experienced joy and suffering during their league meetings, the three Copa del Rey ties these teams have contested have all ended in Athletic’s favour.
5. This is a friendly rivalry. While the desire to come out on top is strong, this fixture is a friendly one and there is very little hostility in the stands. Unlike many other derbies, fans of both teams are often seen sitting together in the stands during the game.
Five Bilbao & Sociedad players to look out for this weekend
The Athletic winger is a perennial danger thanks to his extreme pace and his ability to beat defenders. Williams is one of the most in-form forward in LaLiga Santander right now, with 7 goals on the season so far.
The man from Eibar is Real Sociedad’s response to Williams. Aged just 21, he scored 12 LaLiga Santander goals last season, including one against Athletic, and assisted seven more. Away from football, he balances his time studying for a Business degree at the nearby University of Deusto.
The Spain international centre-back spent his entire career with Real Sociedad until switching his allegiances by joining Athletic midway through last season. He’ll be taking part in his 16th derby, his third with Athletic.
The Real Sociedad captain bleeds blue and white and loves nothing more than seeing his team get one over their rivals. He played in his first Basque derby in 2011 and remains just as passionate about this fixture eight years on.
Gomez, a Bilbao native, returned to his hometown club this month after a highly successful two-year stint at fellow Basque side Alaves. His ballplaying abilities will serve him well as he looks to slot into the midfield and help Athletic recover from their slow start to the season under new coach Gaizka Gaitano.