Athletic Bilbao beat Granada 2-0 at San Mames Stadium in an end to end match which saw them move into the top four in La Liga.

Goals from Raul Garcia and Yuri Berchiche in either half sealed the win, with Athletic the dominant side on the day.

Using fast counter attacks and by playing the ball forward quickly, Athletic’s tactics proved difficult to cope for Granada.

Granada were able to create dangerous situations of their own but were not able to possess the ball as well as Bilbao and saw their attacks become less common in the second half.

The following tactical analysis assesses the reasons Athletic were able to win and provides analysis of the key moments that decided the match.

Line ups

La Liga - 2019/20: Athletic Bilbao vs Granada - tactical analysis
Lineups

To start with, Athletic were unchanged from their recent 2-1 win over Osasuna with Raul Garcia once again starting upfront.

With Inaki Williams and Inigo Cordoba providing width, Oihan Sancet was tasked with supporting the forward and connecting with Unai Lopez and Dani Garcia in midfield.

Yeray Alvarez and Inigo Martinez continued their productive partnership at centre-back, with Yuri Berchiche and Ander Capa on the flanks.

Granada started Roberto Soldado upfront, with former Lyon man Maxime Gonalons in the holding midfield role.

Manchester City loanee Yangel Herrera started in midfield replacing Ramon Azeez, while Darwin Machis came in for Antonio Puertas.

Athletic Bilbao approach

Athletic Bilbao dominated Granada in terms of possession in this game, but it was through transitions and turnovers that they created the most threatening situations.

Utilising the aerial ability of Raul Garcia and speed in behind of Inaki Williams, Bilbao were able to turn the Granada defence quickly and pose a range of questions when attacking.

Bilbao also played with a high line and were aggressive in their attempts to win the ball in central areas.

Straight from kick-off, Bilbao looked to push Granada back and prevent them from gaining any fluidity in their passing.

Athletic Bilbao vs Granada La Liga 2019/20 - tactical analysis tactics
An Athletic Bilbao defender attacks the ball on halfway, with six men ahead of the ball

Bilbao’s press did mean that there was space in behind for Granada to move into.

However, with good last ditch defending and fast recoveries from their midfield, Bilbao were still able to limit Granada to just nine shots.

Athletic Bilbao vs Granada La Liga 2019/20 - tactical analysis tactics
Granada beat the Athletic Bilbao press and expose their back four

Athletic Bilbao’s press was crucial when it came to setting up attacks and disrupting Granada’ fluency in possession.

In all areas of the pitch, Bilbao players had the confidence jump out of their hole to win the ball back, with their teammates in tune and ready to counter straight away.

Athletic Bilbao vs Granada La Liga 2019/20 - tactical analysis tactics
A Bilbao defender jumps out the line to regain possession and start a counter-attack

The speed and skill of Inaki Williams was also a valuable tool in terms of setting up attacks.

His pace would attract a number of defenders but through one-two passing or fast turns and twists, he could get in behind and isolate the Granada back four.

Athletic Bilbao vs Granada La Liga 2019/20 - tactical analysis tactics
Inaki Williams beats two men in order to get behind the Granada block

Despite being willing to retain possession and circulate the ball from the back, Bilbao were also keen to play forward quickly when they had the chance.

With Garcia great at winning flick-ons, and Cordoba and Williams always making themselves available in behind Yeray and Martinez would often playing balls in behind to stretch the Granada defenders.

Athletic Bilbao vs Granada La Liga 2019/20 - tactical analysis tactics
Yeray looks to push Granada back with a searching ball in behind for Williams

After going 1-0 up from a penalty, Bilbao continued to dominate the ball and territory in this match.

Despite Athletic’s domination, Granada were still difficult to break down and they were only able to make it 2-0 after a mistake from a clearance gave Unai Lopez space to run into.

He crossed to the back post and Yuri Berchiche was there to make it 2-0 and decide the game.

Athletic Bilbao vs Granada La Liga 2019/20 - tactical analysis tactics
Lopez crosses for Berchiche at the back post, who makes it 2-0

Granada approach

Granada were dominated in terms of possession and territory during this match, but were in the main able to manage the threat of Athletic Bilbao.

The two goals they conceded came from a petulant push in the box and mistake in possession, with Granada otherwise able to limit the number of clear chances for their Basque opponents.

Granada’s positional discipline, in particular, was very good and they were good at retreating into shape as soon as the ball was lost.

Athletic Bilbao vs Granada La Liga 2019/20 - tactical analysis tactics
Granada found their shape very quickly after losing the ball

In their 4-1-4-1 formation, Gonalons was tasked with watching the floating Sancet, while Soldado’s hold up play was crucial in building counter attacks.

Granada were also aggressive in defence and consistently blocked crosses and shots from Bilbao with great success.

This was in part down to their low block which gave them numbers in defence, but also an instruction to limit the space opposition players were afforded in the final third.

Athletic Bilbao vs Granada La Liga 2019/20 - tactical analysis tactics
Granada effect another block on the edge of their area

However, within possession Granada had large distances between back and front which made it easy for Bilbao to press them.

As a result, they found it hard to pass from the back and would often resort to playing long.

Athletic Bilbao vs Granada La Liga 2019/20 - tactical analysis tactics
Granada’s distances made them susceptible to the Athletic press

Granada’s best chances came from set-pieces and long shots as a result of their struggles in the build-up, although a mistake from Unai Simon in goal nearly gifted them an early goal.

Granada were able to fashion a good shooting chance in the first half from a high punt forward, but Quini pulled it wide.

La Liga - 2019/20: Athletic Bilbao vs Granada - tactical analysis tactics
Quini misses wide from one of Granada’s rare shooting opportunities

Conclusion

This was a good win for an impressive Athletic Bilbao side, who look very well organised and confident in the system they are playing.

Their pressing was ferocious in the first half in particular, but also well organised with players not leaving others vulnerable.

In attack, they play to their strengths well and while Granada were solid defensively, Bilbao took their chance from the two mistakes Granada made.

For Granada, there was not much going forward or in possession, but they were hard to break down and that showed here in the way they pushed Bilbao all match.

Against the best sides, small errors cost matches and this was the case on Sunday.


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