Athletic players surround Piqué on last year's cup final / VICTOR SALGADO - FCB

It’s been a hectic summer for Athletic Club that’s been full of ups and downs. They’ve played no fewer than eight friendly matches, winning two, drawing three and losing three, and have also faced and beaten Inter Baku 2-0 on aggregate in a UEFA Europa League qualifier. That sees them through to the final round of matches before the group stage, where they’re up against MSK Zilina of Slovakia.

The record of 23 goals in those games may look promising, but that statistic is somewhat boosted by the fact that the first 14 of them were scored in the opening match against a local amateur side. In their other warm-up matches they drew 1-1 against the team that finished third in the Russian League last season, FC Krasnodar; lost 3-2 to German second division outfit Greuther Furth; beat Mexico’s Club Tijuana in Idaho, USA; drew 1-1 with both Betis and Valladolid of la Liga and lost 2-0 to both Osasuna and Inter Milan.

If we discount the rather one-sided first fixture, Athletic’s top scorers so far are Aduriz and new signing Eraso, with two each.

Few changes

Athletic Club will be welcoming FC Barcelona to the new San Mamés with more or less the same squad that finished seventh in La Liga last season and reached the Copa del Rey Final. The most significant loss is full back and captain Andoni Iraola, who after twelve years wearing the famous red and white shirt has left Bilbao for New York City on an American adventure in Major League Soccer. Another major loss is Gaizka Toquero, who scored Athletic’s only goal in a 4-1 loss to Barça in the 2009 cup final. The forward will now be playing in the second division for Deportivo Alavés.

Other than the return of some youngsters that were away on loan, there are three additions to manager Ernesto Valverde’s squad for the 2015/16 season. Eneko Bóveda, who was in the Athletic academy for eleven years before spending four seasons at Eibar, is now back home and fighting for the right-back berth in the first eleven. Javier Eraso is a similar case. He spent four years in the Athletic reserves before going to Leganés for three years. The midfielder is now back at San Mamés. Finally Gorka Elustondo has arrived from Real Sociedad, like the other two as a free agent.

Athletic's preseason 2015

08/07 Txorierri XI 0-14 Athletic

11/07 Athletic 1-1 FC Krasnodar

14/07 Athletic 2-3 Greuther Furth

19/07 Club Tijuana 0-2 Athletic

23/07 Betis 1-1 Athletic

25/07 Athletic 1-1 Valladolid

30/07 Athletic 2-0 Inter Baku*

02/08 Osasuna 2-0 Athletic

06/08 Inter Baku 0-0 Athletic*

08/08 Inter Milan 2-0 Athletic

* Europa League qualifier