Athletic Bilbao will be aiming to overturn a 2-1 deficit in the second-leg of their last 32 Europa League tie against Lokomotiv Moscow when the two teams go head to head again on Thursday evening.
With the Spanish club holding home advantage in this second-leg, the tie is certainly evenly poised and there is no doubt that it could go either way. Athletic Bilbao will be kicking themselves that they are trailing going into this game though.
In the first-leg last week, Bilbao led in the first-half through an Iker Muniain strike, but the home side hit back in the second-half to secure a crucial first-leg win.
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In their one domestic game following this defeat, Bilbao hammered Malaga 3-0 in front of their home fans and they will be desperate for a similar display on Thursday evening to progress.
So far this season in the Europa League, Bilbao have only lost three of their 14 home games, while in La Liga, they have suffered just one defeat in their last 10 games on home soil. This is a run they will be relying upon this week.
As for Lokomotiv Moscow, they will hope to take the momentum gained from the second-half of the first-leg into this tough away fixture. They may well be ahead in the tie, but they will be fully aware of the tough challenge ahead in Spain.
Having said that, they can be boosted by their away form in Europe this year. They may well have suffered three defeats, but there have also been three victories, including an excellent triumph at AEK Athens in November.
They therefore have pedigree away from Russia and will be in confident mood going into Thursday night’s fixture. Their focus has been 100% on the Europa League too as the Russian domestic season isn’t in action at the moment, so they should be fresh.
Overall, this is one of the most evenly poised Europa League ties this week and it really could go either way when it gets underway from 6pm on Thursday evening, but with speculation linking Marcelo Bielsa with the Chelsea job, we think the odds of 15/2 on the Russians are simply too big to ignore.