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Athletic set to play at Anoeta

Athletic Bilbao president Josu Urrutia has admitted his team will probably begin next season playing home games at local rivals Real Sociedad's ground, as their own new San Mames will not be finished in time.

Athletic's current 100-year-old Estadio San Mames is set to be demolished after a farewell friendly against a 'Vizcaya' selection, including Real Betis' Benat and Granada's Mikel Rico, on Wednesday night.

It had been planned that the new San Mames Barria stadium, situated right by the old 'Catedral', would host games from next August, even though construction would not be fully completed by that date.

However, Urrutia told Radio Euskadi that it now looked more likely Athletic would have to play at least one 'home' game at their biggest rivals' ground, 80 kilometres along the Basque coast in San Sebastian.

"It is probable that Athletic will have to play a game at Anoeta," Urrutia said. "It is still to be decided. Whatever must happen will happen. Now it is important to say goodbye to San Mames."

Departing Los Leones striker Fernando Llorente is set to feature in Wednesday's night's emotional occasion, but Bayern Munich midfielder Javi Martinez had to turn down an invitation as he is in the US with Spain's national squad. The performance of Elche centre-half Xabier Etxeita, who is in the Vizcaya squad, will likely be followed closely as his current club have confirmed he will rejoin Athletic in the summer.

It also looks increasingly likely that the friendly will be Marcelo Bielsa's last game as Athletic coach. Bielsa's rolling one-year contract ends this month, and held talks with Urrutia on Tuesday, with neither man commenting afterwards about their discussions.

Former Athletic boss Ernesto Valverde, who decided against signing a new deal at Valencia despite his successful spell at Mestalla this season, is thought to have been lined by Urrutia to replace Bielsa, who has been linked with a return to South America to take charge of Brazilian club Santos.

Bilbao newspaper El Correo has reported that Athletic plan to sell packages containing a piece of the 'hallowed' San Mames turf for €35 to €40 as a souvenir for fans. The ground's famous arch is to be saved, although its future use has yet to be decided.


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