November 28, 2012
Only pride to play for
Team Stat Comparison
|Hapoel Kiryat Shmona||Athletic Bilbao|
|Goals for *||1.3||1.3|
|Goals against *||2.3||1.7|
|Last 5 home||L-D-L||D-L-D-W-W|
|Last 5 away||L-L-D||W-L-L-D-L|
|* Goals per match - home matches for home club and away matches for away club|
|Stats: Hapoel Kiryat Shmona | Athletic Bilbao|
Pride will be the only thing at stake when Hapoel Kiryat Shmona and Athletic Bilbao meet in Wednesday's rearranged Europa League encounter in Haifa.
The Group I match was originally due to be played last Thursday but was postponed due to security concerns in Israel.
With a ceasefire now in force in the region, the match has been given the green light to proceed by governing body UEFA, although the occasion is little more than a box-ticking exercise.
Last week's draw between fellow Group I teams Lyon and Sparta Prague means neither Hapoel nor Athletic can book a place in the last 32.
Both sides have failed to win in four group matches so far, with Athletic's only point coming in the 1-1 draw at home to Hapoel on matchday one. The Israelis then shipped seven goals in back-to-back defeats to Lyon and Sparta before securing a home draw against Sparta earlier this month.
Motivation will be high in both camps to avoid finishing bottom of the group, particularly so for an Athletic side who have suffered a shocking fall from grace just a few short months after reaching the final of last season's competition.
Nevertheless, Athletic coach Marcelo Bielsa is poised to field a weakened side in Haifa, with an encounter with leaders Barcelona awaiting them in La Liga this weekend.
The Athletic coach named an inexperienced squad for the trip to Israel, although unsettled Spain striker Fernando Llorente - who has been frozen out by Bielsa in the league in favour of Aritz Aduriz this season - is set to feature.
Bielsa knows he is treading a fine line between restoring pride and wasting energy on a competition that is already effectively over, and said: "I am not favouring the competition, because it is lost.
"But we have to keep an eye on the club's image, which must be protected."