Fresh off their Copa del Rey quarterfinal triumph over LaLiga’s top two teams this week, Real Sociedad and Athletic Club will face off in one of Spain’s oldest rivalries in the Basque Derby on Sunday. Kick-off is at 3pm SA time.
La Real and Los Leones sit three points adrift in LaLiga with Sociedad in eighth and Athletic in ninth.
For La Real, a win at their home stadium in San Sebastián could lift them into the top six and put more pressure on the teams above them as they challenge for a European spot. For Athletic, the focus will be on closing the gap with the fierce Basque rivals and providing a potential buffer against the teams below them.
However, both teams will be feeling on top of the world after eliminating Real Madrid and Barcelona from the Copa del Rey with Sociedad winning 4-3 at the Bernabéu while Athletic eliminated the Copa’s most successful team 1-0 at San Mamés.
Athletic won the first round match 2-0 at home and Sociedad will be looking for revenge, bragging rights and Basque glory.
WIN original Basque jerseys
City Press and LaLiga are giving away two jerseys – one Real Sociedad and one Athletic Bilbao jersey – to two City Press readers, with each jersey worth R1 300.
To enter, answer one of these two questions in the comments section at the end of the article:
Q: Which Real Sociedad Frenchman played in four Basque derbies and didn’t lose once?
Q: Name the striker who has scored five goals across more than a decade of Basque derbies?
The answers are in the article below.
Please include your name and a contact detail so that we can inform you if you have won.
Competition closes Sunday February 9 at 3pm. Winners will be announced on February 11.
Players to watch this weekend
Martin Ødegaard – The Real Madrid loanee ran circles around his parent club’s players this week and even scored his first goal at the Bernabéu against Los Blancos. Oh, the irony. His value Sociedad has been immeasurable playing in almost every LaLiga game scoring four goals and racking up five assists. And he’s just 21 years old.
Alexander Isak – Since moving from Dortmund last July, the Swedish strikers’ first season got off to a rocky start as he struggled for form and fitness while also facing racial abuse. However, since scoring the pivotal goal against Barcelona in December last year to record a stunning draw against the Catalan side Isak has hit his straps scoring 10 goals in 10 games in all competitions. Easily one of LaLiga’s rising stars.
Aritz Aduriz – Over three separate stints at Athletic, Aduriz has become a fixture in the Basque Derby by scoring five goals across more than a decade of derbies. In his final season with Los Leones he has faced a long spell on the side-lines with injury, but with his return this week the centre forward’s experience and tenacity will come in handy.
Iñaki Williams – Homegrown at Athletic the Spanish national has played 231 matches for Los Leones scoring 57 goals and assisting 29 others. The prolific attacker also scored in the last LaLiga Basque Derby that Athletic won making him the ideal candidate to rub salt in the wounds of Sociedad.
Norwegian Martin Ødegaard has been a breath of fresh air for La Real. He is on loan from Real Madrid. Picture: Supplied
Stars of the Basque Derby
Antoine Griezmann (Real Sociedad, 2009-2014) - Before joining Atlético Madrid and Barcelona, Antoine Griezmann made his name at Real Sociedad and enjoyed a lot of success in the Basque derbies he contested. He didn’t taste derby defeat in any of his final four derbies against Athletic Club, winning three times and drawing once. On an individual level, he scored in each of those three wins.
Telmo Zarra (Athletic Club, 1940-1955) - Until Lionel Messi came along, Zarra held most of the scoring records in Spain thanks to his 15 wonderful years wearing the red and white stripes of Athletic Club. He saved some of his very best football for the big occasions, including the Basque derby against Real Sociedad. His record of 14 goals is the joint record for this fixture, even going as far as scoring five goals in a 7-1 victory over La Real in the 1950/51 LaLiga season.
Aritz Aduriz is an experienced member of Los Leones. Picture: Supplied
History of the Basque Derby
Industrial Bilbao and aristocratic San Sebastian found a sporting outlet when football arrived in the early 20th century to the Spanish peninsula.
Athletic Club, notably using the English spelling, was founded in 1898 by Bilbao-born engineering students who had studied in the United Kingdom. San Sebastian’s Real Sociedad de Futbol [Royal Society of Football] was soon established 100 kilometres along the coast in 1909, with the official seal of Spain’s King Alfonso XIII.
A famous early derby in February 1914 was won 3-2 by Athletic, with the opener scored by legendary Los Leones striker Pichichi, whose name lives on in the trophy given to La Liga’s annual top goal scorer.
The early 1980s was a golden age for Basque football, with La Real winning their two LaLiga titles to date in 1980/81 and 81/82, and Athletic Club following up with a double in the next two years.
There have been 146 LaLiga Basque derbies to date, with Athletic winning 59 times, La Real 50, and 37 draws.
Fans of Athletic Club and Real Sociedad often sit together, even during derby days. Picture: Supplied
Things to know about the Basque Derby
This fixture goes way, way back
LaLiga was founded in 1929, with 10 teams playing each other home and away over 18 rounds to determine the first champion. Barcelona won the title that year, but Athletic Club and Real Sociedad both did well and finished third and fourth with 20 points each. They met in the very first round of that inaugural season, drawing 1-1 before Athletic Club ran out 4-2 winners in the season’s second meeting.
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 won one of their titles through this derby. La Real defeated Athletic 2-1 on the final day of the 1981/82 campaign to pip Barcelona to the title, before a 2-1 Athletic victory two years later saw the title go to Bilbao and not to Real Madrid.
Iconic players of the derby and LaLiga
Athletic are renowned for only fielding players of Basque origin but they have still boasted some of the most famous players in LaLiga history, including Zarra, goalkeeper Andoni Zubizarreta and cultured playmaker Julen Guerrero. All eyes are now on the current side’s stars: young winger Williams and evergreen frontman Aduriz.
La Real used to have a similar policy of fielding only Basque players but broke with tradition to bring in Liverpool striker John Aldridge in the late 1980s. While the likes of Darko Kovacevic and Nihat Kahveci have starred up front in the past, today’s side is spearheaded by Brazilian Willian Jose.
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. Of course, there may be some teasing towards the losing set of supporters, but the Basque solidarity is stronger than any hatred of a rival club.