Valverde calls for calm

Athletic Bilbao coach Ernesto Valverde has called on his players to keep their feet on the ground after reaching the Champions League group stages, reminding them that their priority now is to improve their domestic form.

Last Updated: 29/08/14 at 18:46

Valverde: Needs a performance now in the league

Valverde: Needs a performance now in the league

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The Basques produced an emphatic comeback against Napoli in mid-week, beating the Serie A side 3-1 to qualify for the Champions League proper for the first time in 16 years, but have got off to a bad start in the Primera Division, losing their opening game at Malaga.

The coach is hoping they can put things right in the league when they host Levante on Saturday.

"We need to put the euphoria of the Napoli game to one side because we've got zero points and we need to start picking them up," Valverde told a press conference.

"The fact we lost last week obliges us to beat Levante, especially because our next game after that is at the Nou Camp."

Valverde revealed that defender Andoni Iraola is still feeling some discomfort after playing the 90 minutes against Malaga, meaning Oscar de Marcos is expected to keep his place at right-back.

The coach also hinted he would make one or two changes for the visit of Levante after praising the impact made by Ibai Gomez, debutant Unai Lopez and defender Mikel San Jos coming off the bench against Napoli.

"Ibai's injury last year caused us a lot of problems, he has great quality and an eye for goal," the coach said of the forward, who missed the latter stages of last season with muscular problems but scored the third goal against Rafa Benitez's side.

On Lopez, the highly-rated 18-year-old midfielder, he added: "I'm certain he's going to be an important player for us in the future, I knew he was going to make his debut this year."

Like Athletic, Levante got off to a losing start in the league, going down 2-0 at home to Villarreal.

Full-back Pedro Lopez believes Athletic are just as good as last season, when they finished fourth in the league, but is hopeful his side can make the most of the fact they will still be be feeling the effects of their energetic performance against Napoli.

"They have a very good team that is well established," he said.

"It's the same Athletic as last year, they know each other very well and everything's going well for them. But they've played three games and we can catch them while they are a little tired."

Midfielder Pape Diop returns to the side after missing the Villarreal game through suspension, while coach Jose Luis Mendilibar has left Ruben Garcia and Andreas Ivanschitz out of his squad.

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La Liga Fixtures

Friday, 19 December 2014
19:45
Celta Vigo v Almeria  
Saturday, 20 December 2014
15:00
Barcelona v Cordoba  
17:00
Levante v Sociedad  
19:00
Eibar v Valencia  
21:00
R Vallecano v Espanyol  
Sunday, 21 December 2014
11:00
Villarreal v Deportivo  
16:00
Granada v Getafe  
18:00
Elche v Malaga  
20:00
Ath Bilbao v A Madrid  
Saturday, 03 January 2015
15:00
A Madrid v Levante  

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