December 2011 Review – End of year improvements.
Facilities Improvement & Junior Coaching
First of all, we have a healthy bank balance of around £30m, so I thought why not improve the facilities? We already have top training facilities but only good youth facilities, so I have arranged some improvement of them, costing around £2m and they will be ready by October 2012.
Also, our Junior Coaching was also only good – I asked the board to fund it more and they did straight away, so it has now been increased to ‘excellent’.
But, upon looking through our facilities I found something out – we’re getting a new stadium in 2015! The new 53000 seater stadium, called the San Marnes Barria, will open in July 2015. Although this is great for the club, I can’t see myself being at Bilbao when the stadium opens.
So just the 4 games this month as a 3 week winter break begins half way through December. We start off the month away at Mallorca, who sit 19th and are struggling, so I expect to win. We then host Racing Satander in another simple game with themselves being in the relegation zone, before we go to Slovakia to face Slovan Bratislava in our final Europa League Group G game. We end the month at home to Real Zaragoza. My predictions for this month are;
W W W W
The final month of 2011 got off to a bad start as an abysmal performance by Bilbao saw them beaten by struggling Mallorca 1-0. Mallorca were the better side and deserved the 3 points and got the only goal with 20 minutes left – Jaime eventually powering the ball in after a scramble from a cross, his first goal for Mallorca.
Fernando Llorente grabbed all 4 goals in a fantastic 4-1 win over Racing Santander in the penultimate home game of 2011. It didn’t start well for Bilbao who fell behind after just 2 minutes – Tomas Rosicky, on loan fro Arsenal, playing a fine low cross and the ball came off Borja Ekiza’s shin and in. But Bilbao managed to get themselves on level terms 4 minutes before the end of the first half, Fernando Llorente was played in 1-on-1 with the GK by Herrera and he calmly slotted the ball under the ‘keeper. Llorente then went and gave Bilbao a HT lead as he scored 2 minutes into first half stoppage time, firing a powerful shot into the bottom corner from 15 yards. Llorente completed his hattrick and made it 3-1 7 minutes into the second half with the best goal of the lot – he received the ball with his back to goal 20 yards from goal, turned and fired an unstoppable shot into the top right hand corner. MOTM Llorente made it 4-1 with 20 minutes left, as he beat 2 defenders before curling it beautifully into the bottom corner.
Bilbao finished their Europa League Group G games with a 2-0 win over Slovan Bratislava to make sure they will keep a 100% record in the Europa League. Bilbao took the lead after 20 minutes – Igor Martinez, in for the injured Markel Susaeta, was played 1-on-1 with the Slovan GK by Alberto Herrera, and Martinez cooly curled the ball around the GK and into the bottom corner to score his first goal for the club. Martinez went and got his second of the game with 15 minutes left – a poor Slovan corner was easily cleared by Ekiza, and Martinez slid in to poke the ball through a defenders legs, before running half the pitch and slotting the ball under the GK. The win means Bilbao top the group by 8 points to second place Palermo after playing 6 & winning 6, and here is our group as well as the draw for the first & second knockout round;
Bilbao finished 2011 with a win as they triumphed over Real Zaragoza at the San Marnes, winning 3-0. Fernando Llorente got Bilbao off to the perfect start as he gave them the lead after just 38 seconds, a long ball splitting the Zaragoza defence and Llorente rounded the GK before tapping into an empty net. 12 minutes later & Bilbao had doubled their lead, captain Iraola’s wonderful sweeping corner found the head of Fernando Amorebietta, who had a free header into the back of the net. MOTM Amorebietta then got his second and Bilbao’s final goal as he towered above 2 defenders to head in another Iraola corner just before HT.
So at the end of that month I’m happy – we won 3 but put in a pathetic performance against Mallorca in a game we really should be winning. We’ve dropped back down to 5th but we’re still in a very healthy position – a win could put us 2nd. Here’s the league table at the end of 2011;
Next month I’m back with a not so fun away trip to Real Madrid – I’m really not happy about going there, but that’s life.