After fifteen years away from competing with Europe’s footballing elite, Athletic Bilbao are closing on a return
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Athletic Bilbao have Champions League football in their sights after winning Sunday's showdown with Sevilla.
Markel Susaeta set the hosts on their way by scoring straight from a corner in the fourth minute, and Iker Muniain strengthened their grip on the game with an acrobatic finish early in the second half.
A disappointing evening for Sevilla got even worse when Diogo Figueiras was sent off with 18 minutes remaining, and moments later Ander Herrera then added further shine to a convincing home win by heading in a third, although Kevin Gameiro reduced the deficit with 11 minutes to go.
Athletic Bilbao continued their march towards Champions League football next season with a dominant 3-0 home victory over Malaga.
Aritz Aduriz scored at the start of each half as Ernesto Valverde's side made light work of the visitors, and Ander Herrera hit the third goal with half an hour remaining, with the help of an error by the normally reliable Malaga goalkeeper Willy Caballero.
Struggling Elche held high-flying Athletic Bilbao to a 0-0 draw at home, but remain dangerously close to the Primera Division relegation zone.
Athletic's capacity to break down Elche, who had not conceded any goals in their previous five home games, was made harder by the strong wind blowing over the Martinez Valera stadium, but credit must go to Fran Escriba's men for starving the Basques of proper goalscoring chances.
Athletic Bilbao tightened their grip on fourth spot in the Primera Division with a narrow 1-0 victory over Getafe.
Markel Susaeta hit the only goal of the game in the 39th minute, and although Athletic were easily the better side, they were unable to extend their lead.
Aritz Aduriz had a mixed but ultimately rewarding night as Athletic Bilbao stayed ahead of the game in the chase for the fourth Champions League spot.
The veteran striker missed a first-half penalty but recovered to score a second-period equaliser as his men drew 1-1 at Villarreal.
The point puts them six points clear of Real Sociedad in the race for the final spot in Europe's premier competition, while it keeps Villarreal - for whom Tomas Pina opened the scoring - seven behind them.
It was a fair result but Villarreal may wonder what would have happened had Gabriel Paulista not been sent off midway through the second half.
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Barcelona's desire to find a competent centre-back to partner Gerard Pique could see them turn to Athletic Bilbao teenager Aymeric Laporte, according to Mundo Deportivo.
The French defender has become integral to Athletic's success this season, as they battle for the fourth Champions League slot in La Liga.
Basque outfit Athletic have no desire to sell the 19-year-old, but he does have a hefty release clause of €36million, should the Catalans want to push the boat out
The performance of the day in Li Liga came from Athletic Bilbao, who hammered Almeria 6-1 to tighten their grip on fourth place.
Midfielder Mikel Rico opened the scoring with just six minutes played and Ander Herrera doubled the lead just four minutes later.
Aymeric Laporte made it 3-0 just after the half-hour mark, but Helder Barbosa gave Francisco Javier Rodriguez's side faint hope by scoring before half-time.However, further goals from Aritz Aduriz put the hosts further ahead and a double from substitute Ibai Gomez completed the rout.