With Real Madrid looming large on Saturday, several Athletic players have spoken to the press about the upcoming game. Aymeric Laporte gave an interview with Inaki Ugalde of Mundo Deportivo touched on several different issues. The French center-back began by saying that Real Madrid are coming to the San Mames at a good time because the Lions have won their last few games at home and have been very strong.
“At the moment we have won two games in a row, which was the most important because we know that Madrid is a team with players that are at a very high level. If we can achieve the third victory it would be something extraordinary. I’ve seen statistics where we have 16 wins and 3 draws at home and haven’t lost at the San Mames, but that is just date. At home we are better, but that is natural. Now we have to try to turn around the matches away from home.”
Laporte was then asked if Athletic is always favored at home, but he wouldn’t look at it that way no matter what the statistics may say.
“I don’t know about that. It depends on the team and the opponent. We have all been very good so far, but Madrid is Madrid, the same as Barca. Each year they earn many points. I don’t trust statistics like that because anything can happen. I have already played a few games against great players like the ones at Real Madrid. We have to go all in against the bigger teams and make things hard for them.”
There have been fans all throughout La Liga complain of refereeing in Real Madrid games this season. Laporte was asked if he was worried about the referee helping, but wouldn’t really discuss that influence on games.
“Help them or us (laughs)? We will try to play our football and not have to say anything to the referee. They are just trying to do their job. The most important thing for us is to take the match and push forward. We do have to watch Sergio Ramos from corners. Lately he’s been getting a lot of goals, especially at the end of games. We will have to be very attentive because that can cost us. We must defend those plays well.”
Laporte was then asked about the importance of the Basque Derby win last weekend and to predict the final score of Saturday’s massive clash.
“The Derby win was more important than anything because we have played so many road games without winning. Turning things around, especially against Real, was big for the team. Now we can raise our heads and try to win out. Saturday’s prediction? I think we will win and if we can keep them scoreless that would be even better. But i think it is going to be complicated. I would say 2-1. It would be perfect if I could score the winner.”
In closing, Laporte was asked about what Athletic wants to achieve in the remainder of the season and whether or not 4th place was impossible. As always, the Frenchman was very positive.
“Our goal is climbing as high as possible in the table, that is all there is to the story. We want to add as many points as possible and if we can be in the Europa League or our dream of the Champions League, then it will be really good. Do we rule out fourth place? No, anything can happen.”
Will Laporte’s prediction come true? It was definitely gutsy, but it is great to see the defender believe in his side against such a strong rival. The Lions have been formidable at home this season so Saturday’s match at the San Mames promises to be a thriller.