Star striker Fernando Llorente is a major injury doubt for Athletic Bilbao’s potentially crucial Primera Liga showdown with Valencia at the Estadio San Mames. Llorente scored a stunning opener as Athletic rounded off an impressive UEFA Europa League win over Manchester United but was then forced to limp off with 40 minutes gone. Afterwards Llorente admitted his problem was related to an injury he suffered in Athletic’s La Liga defeat to Osasuna in Pamplona last Sunday, when he came on as a second half substitute. Llorente told Marca: “I got hurt in Pamplona on Sunday. I tried to recover but I didn’t have enough time. I played for as long as I could. Now we must recover because it is a tough game and we must continue playing well.” The points are vital to Athletic’s chances of confirming their place back in the Europa League next year. Marcelo Bielsa’s men currently sit in eighth place, one point behind Osasuna in the last qualifying place. Unai Emery’s Valencia have bigger ambitions, as they seek to hold off their nearest challenges and secure the win which will move them closer to claiming the third and final UEFA Champions League place. Athletic face an stern test as despite their mauling of Sir Alex Ferguson’s men they go into the game with just two La Liga wins from their last six, and having taken a single point from their last six games against Valencia. Valencia, who also booked their place in the Europa League quarter-finals on Thursday night by seeing off PSV, are looking to bounce back from a disappointing 2-2 home draw with Mallorca last time out. The hosts were coasting at half-time but the dropped points allowed fourth-placed Malaga to narrow the gap on them to four points, with Levante and Osasuna a further two points behind.
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Athletic Bilbao vs Valencia Preview