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Bielsa calm over Israel trip

Athletic Bilbao boss Marcelo Bielsa has said he has no concerns about travelling to Israel for Wednesday night's rearranged Europa League game against Hapoel Kiryat Shmona.

The match was postponed last week by UEFA after a bombing in Tel Aviv hours before Athletic were due to fly into the city. The club have since received assurances that it is now safe to travel and the Argentine coach said he was happy to follow the advice given by those aware of the security situation.

"We are not afraid, we are relaxed," Bielsa said after arriving in Israel on Tuesday. "We respect the decisions which we follow. Last week they told us we should not come, but this week, yes."

The subsequent 1-1 draw between Lyon and Sparta Prague in Group I's other game saw both those teams progress to the last 32, meaning Wednesday's game, which takes place at the Kiryat Eliezer Stadium in Haifa, is being played just for pride and UEFA co-efficient points.

Bielsa has therefore left most of his regular starters back in Bilbao ahead of Saturday's La Liga trip to Barcelona, with little-used centre-forward Fernando Llorente in line to start in an XI composed of squad players and promising youngsters.

"Although the result will not determine positions which are already decided, a good performance, some individuals contributing well, could be important for the future of the team," the Argentine said. "It would add more alternatives in different positions within the team."

Llorente could be joined up front by utility man Gaizka Toquero, who told reporters in Haifa on Tuesday that he had no opinion on political issues in the region.

"I do not have to give my own personal political opinions, I am a football player," Toquero said. "I am here to play football, nothing else."


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