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About maccataq

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    Athletic Bilbao

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  1. So to club matters! We'll start with August - October... The season started with the Supercopa match against Champions Real. We were superb in the first half with goals from Iriondo, Inaki Garcia and Sanz giving us a 3-0 lead! Asensio scored just 2 mins after the break to make this considerably less comfortable and Real managed to score with pretty much the last action of the game to make this 3-2. A disappointing 2nd half indeed but we lifted the trophy for the 3rd time in 4 seasons with my 2 other victories coming against Barcelona (we weren't involved the other season). On to La Liga and for the first time in many years, we started with a home fixture. In fact, we started away in each of the 6 previous seasons with our last home start in my first season! We enjoyed a 2-0 win over a distinctly average Espanyol team with Yeray and Sanz on target. Our 2nd game would take us away to Atletico where we earned a good point in a 1-1 draw. Andoni Sanz saved the day with an 84th minute equaliser for which I was relieved as our play deserved at least a point. After a typically quiet transfer deadline day, September brought a Champions League draw in which we would face European Champions PSG, Roma and Olympiakos. Before that we had a tricky tie against Betis who, although we had beaten 6-0 in this fixture last season (and of course 2-0 in the Copa del Rey final) we edged out a 2-1 win. It wasn't the best of displays as we took an early lead through Iriondo and a late second when Sanz scored deep into injury time to all but seal the points. However, we switched off and allowed Betis to hit back immediately with a 95th minute consolation. A disappointing draw home to Roma in which new signing Iosu Santisteban made his full debut and he was guilty of missing chances and ended up with a very disappointing showing. This was concerning given we would more than likely be fighting it out with Roma for 2nd place. We put that behind us with a hard-earned 1-0 win away at Sevilla before hammering Girona 5-1 with wonderkid right winger Redero on target twice as well as Iturrino, Estrada and Moreno as well. This set us up nicely for our trip to Barcelona, a team we always seem to struggle against with 4 straight defeats in the Camp Nou going into this match and only 1 previous point picked up here in my time! A change of approach was needed here and so I dropped my usual 433 big game tactic in favour of a new tactic I had been training inspired by someone else's 4411 which includes an inverted RWB and an inverted winger at RM (perfect for Oyarzabal)! Things got off to a good start when Josu Iriondo (a prolific goalscorer you might have noticed) opened the scoring but Pogba levelled 8 minutes later much to my dismay. Here we go again, or so I thought because we responded immediately when Sanz restored our lead a minute later and then another 3 minutes later, converted from the spot to give us a 3-1 lead which we carried into half time. It was imperative we didn't start the 2nd half like we did in the Super Cup final. We kept things tight and in the 66th minute we were handed a golden opportunity to take us into dreamland when we were given a 2nd penalty of the match. Sadly Sanz's second kick was palmed away ter Stegen and we would have to continue to maintain our concentration. Remarkably, we were handed a another opportunity after seeing out the rest of the match when the referee again pointed to the spot in the 93 minute. Sanz again spurned the opportunity to humiliate Barcelona and the match finished 3-1. Nonetheless, I was delighted to leave with my first win at the Camp Nou. It should also be noted that Barcelona had already lost their first match of the season home to Atletico 2-1 so they were looking a little vulnerable. We moved into October winning a crucial CL game 3-0 in Greece before a highly disappointing goalless draw in Granada! Isn't it just typical that you draw a game you should win following such a brilliant result as in Barcelona? We followed that up with a 4-0 thrashing of Malaga with Sanz and Garcia scoring 2 each. Sanz also scoring a penalty after being asked to practice them after his troubles in Barcelona. A trip to Paris against a Mourinho team was always going to be difficult but Mariano Moreno managed to get himself sent off after just 17 minutes for a bad challenge. We succumbed to a 2-0 defeat, not putting up much of a fight after that and leaving us with work to do. Inaki Garcia saved our blushes home to Getafe with an 80th minute winner before a chance to rotate for our cup match against Huesca. Sadly, my expensive and struggling new signing Santisteban picked up an injury that denied him a chance for this game as we ran out easy 3-0 winners with young midfielder Alain Rodriguez, back up striker Iturrino and De Arrascaeta on target to end the month on a high. November picked off where October left off with a confident 3-1 victory at Villarreal before we faced a stern test against PSG. It was a tight game settled by a player that so often pops up with big moments in big games like this: Mikel Oyarzabal! This gave our group qualification chances a huge boost and with Roma taking 6 points from Olympiakos, we were tied on 7 points with a trip to Rome next. Before that we enjoyed two home games and two home wins; we beat nearby Eibar 2-0 before dismantling Valladolid 5-0 with the increasingly promising Redero claiming two. So off to Rome we went where defeat would send us into the Europa League on the head to head ruling, although a win would see us qualify. Things didn't get off to the best of starts with Roma taking the lead on 12 minutes but Mikel Merino scored a rare goal for him 5 minutes later to level things up. A tight match finished 1-1 and so we would go to the final group game with a slight advantage of the head to head and a home match against Olympiakos whilst Roma would go to PSG, who had already qualified. We finished the month with a 4-0 win at Cordoba and it was pleasing for a number of reasons. Merino scored again, Redero scored again and Sanz scored twice including one from the spot. Into December, we could hand opportunities to squad players and youth in the return match home to Huesca which we won 2-0 with Iturrino and Estrada on target. We then had a trip to Levante which has been an unhappy hunting ground of late having drawn 3-3 two seasons ago and lost 3-2 last season! We took the lead here through Garcia but Levante responded twice before half time to lead. A Sanz penalty on the hour levelled at 2-2 and we were unable to score a winner. So to the crucial last game against Olympiakos! If you come to San Mames, we are going to attack you and some opponents crumble and so it proved as we ran in 5 goals in the first half alone! An unfortunate own goal late on meant it finished 8-0 as we cruised into the knockout stages. Redero, Sanz (2), Goni, Iriondo, Merino and Alain Rodriguez made the scoresheet. As an aside, Merino who typically scored very few, was thriving in a new role, playing as an advanced playmaker from central midfield rather than the DLP role I had given him over his Bilbao career. I'm starting to wonder if I've wasted him in that role all this time although it should be noted that he is also in his prime with his attributes never looking better. We followed that with a 2-0 victory over Las Palmas and a 1-0 win over Basque rivals Sociedad who came into this match with their manager under pressure occupying the relegation places. Another successful spot kick from Sanz after 17 minutes was the only goal of the game but I wasn't happy that we only scored 1 given we had 44 shots!!! I should note that we had been top of the league through much of November and December but that draw in Levante cost us top spot with Real in first place. We ended the year on New Year's eve against Barcelona in the cup before trips to Valencia, Barcelona and Real Madrid! Given this demanding fixture list and an injury to Oyarzabal, I decided to stick with a cup team against Barcelona. Still quite strong with Martinez at CB, the ageing Herrera in midfield and Williams returning from injury but very much a second string. We performed well in the circumstances and looked to be heading to Barcelona goalless but an injury time corner gave Barcelona a smash and grab win. I was very disappointed but had to remember the bigger picture of resting players for key league games. A strong team went to Valencia and came back with nothing, conceding early on to a Dani Olmo goal and a disappointing performance ended with a bad result. Valencia away is always tough but we usually leave here with all the points, it just wasn't to be this time. I kept the courage of my convictions and sent out the 2nd string to Barcelona with an eye firmly on the Madrid match. We have won the cup 2 years on the trot and whilst I always want to win, we need more focus on our bigger ambitions of becoming champions once more. Barcelona completely dominated but we managed to stay in the game and it was goalless at half time. Malcom changed that right after the break and doubled their aggregate lead. We had 1-2 chances to get back in this but ultimately we were no match for a full strength Barcelona team that and we lost 2-0 (3-0 on aggregate). Again I had to remember why I made these decisions as we reflected on a 3rd straight defeat without scoring! A trip to the capital beckoned and we would need a performance under pressure. We still were without Oyarzabal, crucial to the new 4411 formation but I went with it anyway with Williams taking up the role on the right. Gabriel Jesus has long been our tormentor and he scored just 8 minutes into this match! Lucky for us, we have our own tormentor and Andoni Sanz ran in behind the Real defence just 2 minutes later and lashed in on the volley to equalise, ending our drought in the process. It didn't last long however, as Jesus fired Real back in the lead in the 16th minute and that was enough to give them a half-time lead. I challenged the team to do better in the second half; whatever Jesus can do, so can Sanz and in the 56th minute, Sanz scored his 2nd to make it 2-2. When Theo Hernandez got sent off for a bad challenge in the 70th minute, it presented an opportunity to go and win the match. We pushed up a little but couldn't find a winner but left with a good point which leaves us in a good place for the head to head, speaking of which, Real come to San Mames on the last day of the season! Meanwhile, Barcelona had won both their last 2 league games and leapfrogged us into 2nd place. And so came to and end our tough run and now it was time to start putting some wins back on the board! Celta Vigo at home presented a good opportunity to do just that and we brushed them aside 3-0 with all the goals coming in the second half. Remarkably, Williams netted his first of the season here after an injury disrupted season. We followed that up with a potential banana skin trip to Espanyol where we completely dominated a 1-0 victory. Ultimately I was pleased but we could and should have scored more than the sole Sanz goal. Heading into February we lie 2nd place in the league, 2 points behind Real and 2 points ahead of Barcelona who were hammered 4-1 by Atletico to let us jump back ahead of them. Real seem more resilient and much to my annoyance, managed to win much less convincingly than we did against Celta. A 93rd minute Celta equaliser would not discourage them and they won the match 2-1 after being awarded a 95th minute penalty! They head to Atletico next so hopefully they will drop points there but we head to the only team to have beaten them so far in Real Betis and given our recent record away to Betis, we are going to need to be at our best, even if they do sit back in 9th!
  2. Time for an update and I'll start with Spain. Following our Confederations Cup success, it was time to turn our attentions to qualifying for the World Cup. We had already won our first 4 games without conceding including a 2-0 away win in Sweden and a 3-0 home win against Ireland, the 2 teams that would pose the greatest challenge in the group. We enjoyed a comfortable 2-0 win over Georgia at home which was perhaps a little frustrating given another display of overwhelming dominance not reflected in goals. Bilbao left winger Josu Iriondo opened the scoring in the first half and it wasn't until midway through the 2nd half that we gave ourselves a cushion when another Bilbao man, Andoni Sanz, converted from the spot. I was relieved by this because it was his first international goal of the year having gone 6-7 games without a goal, his last coming in November 2024. The Sweden match came 3 days later (on my birthday) and turned out to be a rather chastening experience. The Swedes came with a gameplan, playing direct football and a compact shape containing 2 DMs. It's fair to say it worked when they scored 2 goals in 3 minutes (the first goals we'd conceding in the group) to put us in a precarious position. Saul pulled one back to give us a foothold and we trailed 2-1 at the break. The nightmare continued when Sweden restored a 2 goal lead just before the hour and despite a Jorge Mere goal with 12 minutes to go, we couldn't salvage anything and succumbed to a shock home defeat. I wasn't at all happy but fair play to Sweden. We would have to stew over that result until the next international break which would start with a trip to Ireland. At this point, Ireland were tied on 15 points with us in 2nd place with Sweden 3rd with 12 points. Morata's poor performance meant he wouldn't take part in this important fixture so back with Sanz leading the line, he scored just before half-time to give us a crucial lead in a match we largely controlled. Ireland were reduced to ten men on the hour making our task much easier and so it proved with Sanz adding his 2nd before Isco, recalled to the Spain squad after featuring more for Real, made it three. A home against Malta and now a 3 point lead in the group gave us the opportunity to book our place in the World Cup finals. This was a rout of gigantic proportions as we took an 8-0 lead into half time! Yeray scored twice; Malcom and Asensio both scored hat-tricks with Basques Sancet and Herrando both scoring their first international goals (Yeray scoring his first 2). Another Bilbao man, Inaki Garcia found the net with Sergio Gomez and Alvaro Morata also on target! The final international break included a friendly against Chile which meant a 3 game week, which I was not happy about. Whenever I'm on Spain duty, I do my best to take care of my Bilbao players so this adds strain. Suso scored twice in this game after Oyarzabal opened the scoring. The final 2 games were straightforward; Moldova put up more of a fight than Malta but it was another bumper day for Spanish players looking to fill their boots in a match where we were 3-0 up in 10 minutes. Oyarzabal on target again, maintaining Basque interests, Asensio and a Sergio Gomez penalty gave us that lead. A second half hat-trick for Josu Iriondo made me immensely proud as well as a 2nd for Oyarzabal with Sanz on target too. Our final game in Georgia was a routine 2-0 win with goals for 2 returning players, Suso and Alcacer, the latter earning his first call up by me. Final group standings: We then drew Japan and Curacao in the reformed group format for the World Cup in USA, Mexico and Canada.
  3. I'm still playing albeit slowly. I have only managed 2 saves in Fm19 (did a few seasons with Benfica first) as I just don't get the time I used to now I have a little boy. Not sure if I will buy FM20 or not just so I can continue with this save and maybe another - I have tended to buy every other version of the game (played 11, 13, a very brief stint on 14 because I got it free, 15, 17 & 19). I get too attached to saves and this time round I'm determined to become a dominant force with Athletic domestically and win a European Cup. I've been consistent top 4 but only 1 league title so far. If you keep this thread going into FM20 I hope you won't mind me posting about my FM19 save! How did you get on?
  4. Season 2025/26 Transfers in: Iosu Santisteban, Mikel Vesga, Inigo Eguaras, Andoni Gorosabel I wanted to bolster my attacking options and depth so I signed this guy from Stade Rennais who I'd be tracking for a few season and since I had a bit of a war chest, I parted with £42m (rising to £54m) to land him. The other 3 signings, including bringing back Mikel Vesga, were all bought for the B team as they all have good levels of determination and good personalities. The idea is to improve the squad personality of Bilbao Athletic as my team leaders there had determination ranging from 8-12 and too often I see youth prospects promoted there see a decline in their determination. Transfers out: Unai Nunez, Alex Remiro, Iker Muniain, Jose Manuel (loan) I waved goodbye to some great servants with Iker Muniain having sought a move away in January, I finally sold him on to Olympiakos after injury scuppered his chances of a January move. Unai Nunez (sold to Aston Villa) had dropped down the pecking order and spent the 2nd half of last season on loan at Valencia so it seemed like the right time to move him on with Goni now pushing Martinez for first choice and making room for Cano to get more opportunities. Finally, Real came in with a bid for Remiro and given he is my no.2 goalkeeper and a couple of high potential keepers coming through, the time was right to sell and we managed to get £10m for him. Finally, Jose Manuel, a product of our academy who had played back up in midfield for a few season departed on loan to get some regular football. I have a couple of high potential midfielders coming through and although Ander Herrera is entering his autumn years, I still want him around as an excellent personality and team leader. Squad for the season (*denotes newgen): GKs: Unai Simon & Alex Reta* RBs: Alberto Areso* & Ruben Royo* LBs: Juan Carlos* & Carlos Bengoetxea* CBs: Inigo Martinez, Yeray, Franck Goni* & Porfirio Cano* DMs: Mariano Moreno* CMs: Oihan Sancet, Mikel Merino, Ander Herrera, Jose Luis Estrada* (can play DM too), Alain Rodriguez* AMCs: Inaki Garcia* & Patxi Rodriguez* RWs: Inaki Williams, Mikel Oyarzabal (can play a few positions) & Jairo Redero* LWs: Josu Iriondu* & Giorgian De Arrascaeta CFs: Andoni Sanz*, Imanol Iturrino* & Iosu Santisteban* Including Patxi and Cano, who don't need to be registered, we have a squad of 26 players this season to help combat any issues of squad depth which seemed to undo us last season when we suffered a number of injuries. Here are some of my prospects from the first team squad:
  5. I always trawl the youth intake screen in world transfers. I used to sign non-Basque Spanish 16 year olds where needed but I've since decided to go pure. Despite that I still find them via the same way because I find it quicker to find all the Basque teams to scout, same goes for the French Basque teams but I also like to go through all the French/Spanish teams and just try to spot any Basque looking names.
  6. I landed the Spain job in my last season. Has anyone taken this on with Bilbao? I have quite a large number of Basque players in and around the Spain squad already but I have not set myself any challenge around what I want to get out of this yet. The dream would be an all Basque team or even squad but this is perhaps unlikely and/or unrealistic as I'd be ignoring some world class players presumably but just interested if any of you have tried it? The other thing I noticed in my save is that the number of newgens produced by each team in Spain is very small, usually 2-3 players per team which I find a bit strange! My database is on large so I was thinking this would enable more players overall and more players in the intakes but perhaps having all the Spanish leagues loaded means it is more thinly spread? Anyway, what it looks to be doing is skewing the number of players coming through my academy, i.e. we're producing 15-16 players so the national pool may begin to look a bit more Basque, quality permitting! I mean it already is because being a few years on, key players have retired and some of the best centre-back prospects, for example, are my own players plus Yeray, Martinez (despite age) and Herrando are some of the best Spanish CBs available behind Jorge Mere and Jesus Vallejo (who I'm not really familiar with in real life) to give you some context about the players available.
  7. It's probably also noteworthy to mention that after losing on penalties in the European Championships final to Italy, the Spain job became available and was promptly offered my way. As an Englishman managing a Basque team, was the call for the Castilian nation of Spain enough to take my fancy? Of course and I would look to make it a Basque dominated team. Our first games would be in the Nations League and we had drawn Italy and Austria in Division A. We started with a friendly away to Slovenia which we won 2-0 and I proudly named 8 Basque players in my starting line up. Isco, Koke and Grimaldo made up the non-Basques whilst Jorge Herrando (now at Real Madrid) and Kepa were the only 2 Basques not to play for Bilbao (although both have in the past). Andoni Sanz and Inaki Garcia scored the goals. My first competitive game didn't include quite as many Basques with just Oyarzabal keeping his place whilst Odriozola came in for my Bilbao prodigy Areso at RB. We lost this game 2-1 falling behind after 28 minutes. Malcom levelled things up but Italy's Cristante scored late on meaning Italy would leave Spain with the 3pts, which I felt a little hard done by. The next international break brough a trip to Austria and here the Basque count was 3, swapping in Areso for Odriozola, retaining Oyarzabal and bringing in Sanz for Morata up front. This paid off as Sanz and Oyarzabal scored the goals in a 2-0 win. November's international break meant a home fixture against Austria and a trip to Italy. We saw off Austria with 5 Basque players in the team plus 2 more off the bench. Goals from Morata, Williams and Inaki Garcia meant 2 of the 3 goals were scored by Basques! Austria actually took the lead in this match so we won 3-1. Away to Italy was going to be hard and we had to win to have any chance of qualifying for the semi-final. If my task wasn't hard enough, the ref decided to make things an awful lot harder for us. Rodri made a sliding tackle down by the by-line and appeared to take the ball cleanly, however, the ref produced a red card. No problem I thought, VAR will overturn this! Well it would have if it was in use but as it were, we were down to 10 men. We were managing the game quite well but as we drew closer to half-time, an Italy attack was thwarted by a great challenge from Odriozola, cleanly taking the ball but again, the referee didn't like it and produced another red card! If there was any doubt about the first one then there was no doubt with this one - VAR would have overturned! We made it to half-time feeling very hard done by and 2 men down. I told both players they were unlucky to be sent off. Out we went for the 2nd half but the inevitable happened just after the hour when Italy finally took the lead and then doubled it 8 mins later. Sanz managed to pull one back late on but we again lost 2-1 and so we ended up 2nd in the group. Italy went on to beat Germany in the semi-final on penalties but ultimately fell short, losing to France in the final. We went into March starting our World Cup qualifying campaign drawing Ireland, Georgia, Moldova, Sweden and Malta in the group. We started away to Sweden with Asensio scoring twice in a 2-0 win before beating Ireland 3-0 at home with Morata (2) and Sergio Gomez on target. This group seems straightforward with our stiffest opposition brushed aside. June brought trips to Malta and Moldova where we won 6-0 and 2-0 respectively. My left winger Iriondo scored twice and Oyarzabal once representing the Basque country well in the Malta game. June also brought the start of the Confederations Cup! Our group was New Zealand, USA and Senegal B...yes Senegal B team! The first team were in action in the African Nations Cup would you believe? We started with NZ and beat them 3-1 absolutely dominating from the off and after moving 2-0 up, NZ instantly pulled one back through Chris Wood with their first attack of the match, typical. Koke had put us in front and Asensio added his 2nd from the penalty spot in the 2nd half to give us a cushion but 3-1 flattered New Zealand. Our 2nd match also flattered our opposition as a 4th minute Saul strike was enough to beat the USA 1-0 but it really should have been more. Our final group game against the Senegal 2nd string finished 5-0 with Williams, Sergio Gomez, Morata and Inaki Garcia (2) on target. The semi-final drew us against South American champions Paraguay! I looked forward to this one but had to take them a little seriously given their title. The game was largely disappointing and we seemed to struggle to turn our dominance into goals. Our talisman, Asensio, who so often comes up with the goods and destroys teams had an off day and not only turned out a poor performance but picked up the booking that would see him out of the final. My very own Inaki Garcia replaced him and also scored a 91st minute winner to save us from extra time. Portugal seemed the most likely opponents for the final but USA threw up a surprise and so we faced them instead - which I was just fine with! Centre-Back Jorge Mere put us in front around the half hour mark in the final but it seemed like it might be another game where we didn't turn our dominance into goals but Malcom and Oyarzabal scored late on to put the gloss on the scoreline that we deserved, running out 3-0 winners.
  8. Season 24/25 Review: As noted previously, we brought back Oihan Sancet on a free transfer from Arsenal (who had managed to nick him from me a few seasons back). We didn't buy anyone else for the first team but sold Jorge Herrando to Real Madrid as I didn't really need him with 2 high potential CBs breaking through. I also decided to loan out Bengoetxea (2nd choice RB) to Betis as I had another high potential RB coming through. We also sold Ganea to give more game time to Juan Carlos - left back is definitely a problem area. Squad for the season: GKs: Unai Simon & Alex Remiro RBs: Alberto Areso & Ruben Royo (both newgens) LBs: Yuri & Juan Carlos (newgen) CBs: Inigo Martinez, Yeray, Unai Nunez & Franck Goni (newgen) DMs: Mariano Moreno (newgen) CMs: Oihan Sancet, Mikel Merino, Ander Herrera, Jose Manuel (newgen) AMCs: Inaki Garcia (newgen) & Giorgian De Arrascaeta RWs: Inaki Williams, Mikel Oyarzabal (although can play a few positions) LWs: Iker Muniain & Josu Iriondu (newgen) CFs: Andoni Sanz, Imanol Iturrino & Ivan (all newgens) We started the season with the Super Cup after our Copa del Rey triumph and faced Barcelona once more. I don't have a good record against Barcelona but for some reason we do well against them in Super Cups. After defeating them in the Copa del Rey final 2-1, there was little chance for revenge as Inaki Williams put us in front after just 4 mins and my left winger Jorge Iriondo made it 2 just after the half hour. Barcelona pulled one back just before half time but there would be no further goals and we would retain the Super Copa! August would start with a trip to Girona before entertaining Racing Santander. Sancet scored on his league debut and we went on to win an entertaining game 4-2 at Girona before sweeping Santander aside 3-1. My striker Sanz scored a hat-trick in Girona and added another here. Iriondo scored twice to give us a 3 goal half time lead so I was happy with our league start. After the international break, September would provide a rather more stern test; we beat Celta away 2-0 (Iriondo & Sanz on target again) before a visit to Celtic in the Champions League. Alongside Celtic, we drew Dortmund and Arsenal again! We edged out Celtic 1-0 with back up striker Iturrino on target. Next up Barcelona at home...Inaki Williams again put us in front and we took a 1-0 lead into half-time. Unfortunately, the 2nd half would prove more eventful with Barca levelling up 4 mins after the interval and then our task was made a lot more difficult when Yuri was sent off before the hour! Incredibly, just 2 mins later we countered and Sanz put us 2-1 up and something to defend but Malcom equalised just 5 mins later to prevent us from building such a gameplan. Pogba fired in a winner and I was left feeling frustrated by a result that we didn't really deserve and only really happened because of the red card. Our next game was home to Real Madrid who had started very well hammering champions Barcelona 5-1 and also winning away to Atletico, who endured a difficult start. We brought them down to earth with a pleasing 2-0 victory. We finished September away to Espanyol which ended in a disappointing 2-2 draw after twice falling behind. October was flawless. We beat Dortmund 2-0 at home and Arsenal 2-0 away to take command of our CL group. We hammered Villarreal 4-0 and saw off Basque rivals Real Sociedad 2-0 before a creditable 1-0 win away to Valencia. Finally a chance to really rotate the squad when we visited Cultural y Deportiva Leonosa in the cup and recorded a comfortable 2-0 win. November started at home to Malaga which we won well, 4-1! Arsenal scored a late equaliser at San Mames to leave us frustrated in a game we should have won. Our next game was away to Atletico who had started disastrously, finding themselves amongst the relegation places. Of course, they would turn it on for us and we had to salvage a draw, twice coming from behind although the 2nd time we had to do so with 10 men. Really disappointing for the 2nd time this season a red card has hampered our chances of winning games. If the last 2 games were disappointing, Levante would put them in the shadow. Levante are a decent team and more recently I always seem to have high scoring games against them (3-3 away last season). We took the lead here and all seemed to be going to plan but goals either side of half time turned the game on it's head and later Levante made it 3-1 before Oyarzabal pulled one back but it wouldn't be enough, losing 3-2. We bounced back by hammering Celtic 5-0 before a professional 2-0 away victory at Oviedo. December began with the 2nd leg against Cultural with our first half performance blowing them away. Muniain (now 2nd fiddle to Iriondo) led the charge with 2 goals, youngster Chico Perez (he's actually called Gorka but since I had another newgen called Gorka Perez, not to mention the real Gorka Perez presiding in the B team I had to think up a nickname and he was dubbed Chico for his short stature) scored his first goal for the club too and a goal from Jose Manuel made it 4-0 by half-time and 6-0 on aggregate and it finished this way. A double from Sanz was enough to see of Las Palmas at home 2-0. Our trip to Dortmund was a dead rubber having already won the group so we sent a much changed team and paid the price losing 3-0 to a Timo Werner hat-trick! Now the visit of Real Betis would prove extraordinary, my default mentality is positive and I usually change to attacking for teams I expect to beat at home but Real Betis are a good team and were me pushing hard in 4th place so I probably would have changed back to positive had I remembered but instead I picked my team and went into the game, my first choice team fresh from being rested mid-week seemed to do the trick! A first half hat-trick from Sanz as well as goals from Sancet and Williams made it 5-0 at half time! Oyarzabal scored the only goal of the 2nd half and we gave Betis a day to forget with a crushing 6-0 defeat. Our final game of the year would be against Leganes who seem to like to approach the game like Levante with high scoring games. Youssef En Nesyri who had barely scored any goals put Leganes in front after just 2 mins and when Williams levelled things up, it didn't take him long to fire them back in front. I wasn't best pleased that my CBs seemed incapable of dealing with him as they largely counter attacked with direct balls for him! A couple of adjustments and Sancet's 2nd half double meant we could travel back to Bilbao, relieved and with 3 points. At this point, I want to give a nod to Sanz - my top striker! He collected his goal bonus before Christmas by scoring 20 league goals, such was the season he was having. Just 1 other goal to speak of in the CL made it 21. This was the table heading into the winter break: January is always a long month, especially as we tend to do well in the Copa del Rey. We drew Leganes in the 5th round so we'd be seeing a lot more of each other but we made mucher lighter work of them this time with a 2-0 win away from home and again in the return leg. We sandwiched a 2-0 win at Valladolid between that before hammering Sevilla 4-0 at home. We drew Celta Vigo in the quarter finals and gave them the same treatment as Leganes by winning 2-0 both home and away. Between these 2 games brought a highly disappointing 1-1 draw in Getafe. We should have put this game to bed but Martinez scored an own goal fairly late on to cancel out an own goal from Zappacosta that we benefitted from. We won 2-0 in Santander scoring twice fairly early on which I always like! The semi-final matched us with Atletico and we earned a goalless draw in a fairly uninspiring game - we would have to finish the job at home without an away goal. February would be a tough month. AC Milan was our prize for topping the group and of course we would have the return leg against Atletico as well as back to back away trips to Barca and Real! Things would start a little easier than that though - we saw off Girona 2-0 with a double from Sanz and an early Iriondo goal at home to Celta would earn us a 1-0 victory. Atletico gave us a scare in the cup when Paunovic equalised Giorgian De Arrascaeta's first half strike as it meant they led on away goals. Off the bench came Andoni Sanz who had missed a couple of penalties this season but was on target here, twice to see out a 3-1 victory. Our trip to Milan echoed that of our visit to Atletico - a goalless draw leaving us it all to do at home. We then lost 2-0 and 3-1 away to Barca and Real respectively although I don't think we played as badly as the scorelines may have suggested but there were some poor individual performances, especially from my full backs. It was also the start of a mini injury crisis, which coupled with these results, effectively ended our title chances. Having already lost Muniain to a long lay off, Sanz found himself with a spell on the sidelines and he rarely gets injured - it was a bitter blow to my chances. We finished the month with a 2-0 victory home to Espanyol but both Iturrino (in for Sanz) and Iriondo picked up knocks in this match. March would see our injury problems worsen with Williams and Inaki Garcia (AMC) also facing a spell on the sidelines. In January, I had sent Ivan (3rd choice striker) out on loan but brought back Redero, a hot prospect on the right wing to try to provide more back up to my attacking options.Despite falling behind at Villarreal, Iturrino pounced with 2 strikes with Garcia and Areso (RB) grabbing one each to win 4-1. Iturrino played with a knock in this match! We would need him to lead the line against Milan which was a tight affair and after 90 mins, the scores were still 0-0. The strain caused by some of the injuries meant I had tired players and extra time was the last thing I needed. This was the match when Inaki Garcia got injured but Williams and Iriondo both scored to see us finish 2-0 winners...our prize would be Man City in the quarter final! We didn't play well away to Real Sociedad, who had just sacked their manager! Typical! We lost 1-0 as I bemoaned missed chances and missing players. We bounced back with 2 consecutive 2-0 home victories against Valencia and Atletico now missing William also. April was a long month in terms of games played, a trip to struggling Malaga left us red faced as they came back to beat us 2-1, to say I was unhappy was an understatement. We got revenge on Levante, winning 2-0 but more casualties with Iturrino scoring and leaving the field injured as well as Merino picking up a knock...at least Sanz had returned from his injury and we'd need him for the visit of Man City which ended up a goal-fest which I was both delighted with and concerned...I'll let you see for yourself! A patient 2-0 away at Las Palmas was yet another pleasing victory (and we seem to have won a lot by this score) before we would visit Man City. Sanz scored an early goal to give us a 6-3 lead but it wouldn't last long and we ended up 2-1 down at half-time. Foden gave them a 3-1 lead just after half time and now they led on away goals! This might have worked in my favour a little as at least we knew we had to go get a goal. Tierney was sent off only 4 mins later giving us the extra man advantage and we pushed them to find the goal we needed which looked like it might come when Sanz was fouled at the near post when it looked like he might have turned in. Unfortunately his penalty was saved and with that, it seemed our chances would fade but we're made of sterner stuff and Iriondo's cross was met by Oyarazabal at the far post to lash home and send the away support into rapture! We held on for a prize in the semi-final and we would draw a familiar foe, Barcelona. There must have been a bit of a hangover as we laboured to beat lowly Oviedo at home but de Arrascaeta popped up with the goal to end all frustrations just 13 mins from time. Our trip to Betis was a moment to forget as we went down 2-0 before beating Leganes 2-0 (again). Our final match in April was the first leg at home to Barcelona. We battered them with early goals from Sanz and Garcia but Schick replied for Barcelona giving us a 2-1 half-time lead but it flattered Barcelona. Iriondo added a 3rd in the 2nd half but we were unlucky not to score more having hit the woodwork in both halves. I had to be happy with a 3-1 win but it could have been effectively over. Into May and being out of the title race we had to rotate more and put our eggs in the Champions league but a crazy 3-3 home draw with Valladolid was not what I was hoping for having led 3 times and conceding a 95th minute penalty, from which they scored, was not in the script. It didn't do me any good as our trip to Barcelona was highly disappointing scoring 2 quick goals in the 21st and 23rd minute. We failed to muster a shot on target and bowed out. We finished the season with a 2-0 win over Getafe and 1-0 win at Sevilla. These games also gave me a chance to hand game time to upcoming hot prospects including the aforementioned Redero as well Cano (CB, who became 4th choice when I loaned out Unai Nunez in January) and Patxi Rodriguez an AMC with huge potential. Final league table with Real Madrid, despite a couple of late wobbles, taking the title with 99pts whilst we had to settle for 3rd and a disappointing 7 defeats! Certainly not our best season but I think we could have made more of a fight with better luck with injuries. Our final game of the season would be the cup final. After winning last season, this was our chance to retain our trophy and finish the season on a high. We played Betis and this was as straightforward as I could have hoped for: Funnily enough, our season review labelled our 6-0 win against Betis as the moment to remember and our 2-0 defeat as the moment to forget but winning the cup was a happy moment. Here is a recap of our competition activity:
  9. Just finished season 24/25: Super Cup: Winners La Liga: 3rd Copa del Rey: Winners Champions League: Semi Final Frustrating season in some ways as Barcelona had been dominant for a couple of seasons but faltered a bit early on, only for Real to have gone from finishing 4th last season to becoming formidable in the league so it wasn't to be us who would benefit. I was in a 3 way title race until we hit February when we lost away to both Barca and Real as well as being hit with an injury crisis, mainly to my attackers including my top striker, Sanz. The strain on my other attackers meant we lost a couple of silly games to lower table teams later on. 3rd never seemed in doubt so I took the chance to place more focus on Europe. I already posted my success over Man City in the quarter finals but after beating Barca 3-1 in the first leg, we again lost 2-0 away to Barcelona and just didn't seem capable of creating the chance that might send us through. Really frustrating because we battered them at San Mames and could have had 5 but for the woodwork! Finally, we managed to see off Atletico in the cup in the semi-finals. We drew 0-0 away before winning 3-1 at home - was a bit worried when they pulled back to 1-1 in the 2nd half but a red card for them and 2 penalties for us sent us through. We faced Betis in the final who we beat comfortably 2-0 to retain the cup. Already signed a wonderkid I've been monitoring for a few years based in France. He's a striker but can play on the wings too - hoping he can take the pressure off my main striker. I have a few players out on loan who could stake a claim too. Already mentioned that Yuri is retiring but also Iker Muniain sought a new challenge and joins Olympiakos at the end of the season. He's 32 now and had lost his first team place so it was the right time. His best season for me helped us win La Liga so grateful for his service!
  10. Yeah I'm going to assess my options. He's since announced his retirement so forced my hand. Interesting idea to convert a DM, I will see if any are suitable. Bengoetxea was my 2nd choice RB but loaned him out to Betis for a season to allow another high potential RB to get game time plus I'm not very happy with his crossing or general technical ability. However, he's probably my best option to come in and play at LB as he could do that a bit. Juan Carlos has been rotated with Yuri for the last season and was around for a season prior to that whilst I still had Ganea but I moved him on to give JC more game time (I guess he is still an option if I wanted to bring him back) Thanks but I've checked him out and he's 29 and not developed that well even as a winger. He has 6 determination too so way too low to fit in with my squad
  11. I guess the answer was laugh! However, it was stressful and I'm not sure we played that well but we did it! Firstly, I had set my team up earlier but then had to go out so after coming back to my game, I went straight into the game not realising I left GDA and Herrera off my bench so I was thinking about whether I should re-load but I couldn't help but start the match and see how we got on. We took an early lead but City were level after 10 mins and took a 2-1 lead into half time. They then scored again after the re-start giving them the lead on away goals and I was starting to curse playing the game without sorting my subs out. Trailing 2-1 but still leading on aggregate wasn't a great place to be so at least them scoring again meant I had to come out and find a goal. Things turned in my favour when Tierney picked up a 2nd yellow. We kept pushing and eventually we won a penalty when my striker Sanz was pushed at the front post. Sanz (having scored the first goal) stepped up for the penalty but it was a nice height and Ederson pushed it round the post! I thought we had let it slip away but then Oyarzabal, known for popping up with important goals, drifted in at the back post in the 88th minute to slam home a priceless 2nd and we progressed 7-6 on aggregate... I've drawn Barcelona in the semi-final - as if I need to play them again! Dortmund and PSG will fight out the other semi-final. Dortmund are pretty irresistable at the moment - they are current European Champions and hammered Real Madrid in a previous round (who are runaway leaders in La Liga). As a side note, you'll notice Yuri had a bad game - he's 35 and his contract is up for renewal. He wants a 2 year deal as a player / u19s coach which I don't have space for. Left back is still a bit of weakness for me and he's been found out a few times recently. I have a newgen who is decent but not of the standard of the rest of my back line and I have 2 young starlets coming through but a way to go before being first team standard!
  12. Don't know whether to laugh or cry! First leg of CL quarter final vs Man City...
  13. Ah shame - you should be able to bring through some good young CBs - Enrique Garcia needs mentoring by the looks of it though. Arberas and Bernaola were decent CBs from Bilbao Athletic for me but not really any better than that - maybe they would develop better given the chance.
  14. I often have found that the majority of players will get over it if you block a move although I usually am competing on multiple fronts and always in the CL so it makes it a bit easier. I'm in 2025 and still have Yeray although if I were you, I would keep an eye on Laporte! I have had the opportunity to buy him before and right now he is about 30 (think he is the same age as Yeray) and listed by City for £41m so you might have the chance to buy him depending on how much he plays for City. I have Martinez (although getting on now), Yeray and a newgen. I've just loaned Nunez out to Valencia as he was 4th choice and I have another newgen pushing through so I'm not sure I need Laporte, tempting though it is. Another one to look out for but I think he has variable potential is Jorge Herrando in the Osasuna youth team. He was a good buy for me but I ended up selling him to Real as he was never first choice - funnily enough he is on the transfer list within his first season of joining them!
  15. Yeah goalkeepers get a tough time. I have faced keepers who have made 14-15 saves in a match including 3-4 outstanding saves and they would get 7 maybe 7.1 rating! Team is generally doing well but I sometimes wonder if my CMs could be better - although not something I can change too readily.
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