The Truth About Athletic Club

FC Barcelona continue their journey in the Copa del Rey on Thursday at 9:30 p.m. CET with a trip to Bilbao, home of Athletic Club. Here’s the truth about the team they call the Lions.

Where do they come from?

The city of Bilbao is the tenth largest in Spain with a population of almost 350,000, although the ‘Greater Bilbao’ metropolitan area is home to one million people. It is the main city of the Basque Country, which has its own language and culture. Bilbao is a highly industrialized city and its most famous landmark is the guggenheim museum.

Club history

Due to its close connection to Great Britain, Bilbao was one of the first cities in Spain to develop a football culture and Athletic Club was founded a year before FC Barcelona in 1898.

In the early years of the 20and century, the rivalry between Athletic and Barça was probably the most intense in the country. But over the years, the traditional friendship between Basques and Catalans was increasingly reflected on the football field, united against a “common enemy” in the rise real Madrid.

Athletic remains, along with Barça and Real Madrid, one of the three clubs never to have been relegated to the first division. And they are second in the all-time list for Spanish Cup wins (23) and fourth for La Liga titles (8), although they haven’t won since their double title campaign either. in 1983/84.

This is presumably because the club continues to observe the tradition (it has never been official policy) of only fielding players raised in the Basque football system. It is a testament to the quality of football in the region that Athletic have remained so competitive in the face of the ‘globalization’ of football.

The stadium

The club is old San Mames The stadium was affectionately known as the Cathedral, but has now been replaced by a brand new facility on the same site. The changes were all made without the team ever having to stop playing at their famous ground and were completed in 2013. The current capacity is 53,289.

Did you know?

Although the club is widely known as ‘Athletic Bilbao‘, its own supporters still insist on being called ‘Athletic Club’. This dates back in part to the club’s early years, when its biggest rivals were the late FC Bilbaowhich it absorbed in 1903.

Atlético Madrid was founded by Basque players living in the Spanish capital, which is why the teams wear the same red and white stripes. But although the Madrid-based side have since adopted a Spanish translation, the Bilbao side still proudly retain the English name ‘Athletic’.

Athletic uses a democratic membership-based structure similar to that of FC Barcelona and Real Madrid, which is very rare in modern football. Osasuna is another such club.

Athletic are known as The Lionswhich comes from the fact that the local church from which the stadium takes its name (San Mamés) honors a saint thrown to the lions by the Romans.

The club’s red and white stripes date back to 1909, when one of the players reported a game of Southampton England shirts.


When it comes to the Spanish Cup, the encounters between these two clubs are about as historic as it gets. And in recent years, the tradition between the two most successful teams in the competition is more intense than ever. They have crossed paths on an extraordinary number of occasions, including no less than four finals this century.

Barca have won everything. In fact, the 1-0 loss at San Mamés two years ago was the first time Athletic had won an overall draw against Barca since 1960.

But Barca certainly haven’t done everything against the Basques in recent years. In all competitions, Barca have won four of the last ten meetings, Athletic have won three and there have been two draws.

The last ten meetings
21/08/21 (LIGA): Athletic 1-1 Barca
04/17/21 (COPA DEL REY)
: Athletic 0-4 Barca
31/01/21 (LIGA): Barca 2-1 Athletic
17/01/21 (SPANISH SUPER CUP): Barca 2-3 Jock
06/01/21 (LIGA): Athletic 2-3 Barca
23/06/20 (LIGA): Barca 1-0 Athletic
06/02/20 (COPA DEL REY): Jock 1-0 Barca
08/16/19 (LIGA): Jock 1-0 Barca
02/10/19 (LIGA): Athletic 0-0 Barca
29/09/18 (LIGA): Barça 1-1 Athletic

Form Guide

Athletic have had a pretty good start to La Liga, losing just one of their first 12 games, a 2-1 loss at home to Rayo Vallecano. But things never really took off, although after going eight straight games without a single win, things have improved a bit over the past month.

Like Barça, they had a bye to the last 32 of the cup, where they beat Atlético Mancha Real 2-0.

This pass was due to their participation in the Spanish Super Cup in Saudi Arabia, where they came from behind to beat Atlético Madrid and earn a place in Sunday’s final, where they lost 2-0 against Real Madrid.

The squad

Most Capped Internationals: Iñigo Martínez (Spain, 15), Unai Simón (Spain, 13), Iker Muniain (Spain, 2), Raúl García (Spain, 2), Unai Núñez (Spain, 1), Iñaki Williams (Spain, 1)

Top scorers 2021/22 (all competitions): Iñaki Williams (5), Oihan Scarlet (4), Raul Garcia (3), Nico Williams (3)

The boss

Marcelino Garcia Toral played for Sporting Gijón, Racing Santander, Levante and Elche, and also managed a wide variety of different teams, including recreational, Santander Race, Zaragoza, Seville, Villarreal and Valence before accepting the role in Bilbao in January 2021.

In a total of 19 league meetings with Barça in these different clubs, he has never tasted victory, although his teams have beaten the blaugrana in the final of the Copa del Rey 2019 (Valencia) and the final of the 2021 Spanish Super Cup (Athletic).

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