Oscar De Marcos made his return to the starting lineup last weekend against Real Madrid and the Basques put in a very strong performance. Despite arguably being the better team, they lost the match and were not able to take any points away. On Sunday, the right-back gave an interview with Marca and praised his side’s effort against the league leaders.
“It was a good performance from the team. We competed and dominated most of the time. Maybe we didn’t create enough chances, but it is always complicated against a team at that level. We fought and put our best face forward. The team gave their all and in the end I think the fans were satisfied with our performance.”
De Marcos then discussed the disappointing exit from the Europa League, saying that it was a failure. However, he does believe that the team in a good place to be back in Europe next season.
“Every year you look at the best chance of winning a title and it’s the Europa League, because in the Copa and League you have to overcome Barca and Madrid. When you are eliminated a team a lower team, it hurts. We have tried to turn the page from that elimination and wait until next year for our chance. Before that, we have t re-qualify for Europe. The fans took it as a failure, it shows that they were hurt. When you set goals and don’t meet them, it is a failure. The team is not in a bad place in the league right now and the fans do recognize that, but we did not achieve that particular goal. They demand a lot from us and trust us to deliver and we know that we can play at a higher level.”
When asked about the chances of Athletic qualifying for Europe next year, De Marcos said that team believes they can absolute accomplish that goal. To do this, they will need to be stronger away from home.
“There is optimism. We are four points off of Real and Villarreal, and have the tie breakers. We have to depend on ourselves and add a lot more points. It is a reality and achievable goal. To achieve this, we have to stay strong at home and earn more away from home. It is likely that we will be back in Europe next year and that should be our goal.”
The 27-year-old did admit that there will be several difficult road games to finish out the season, highlighting next weekend’s match against Basque rivals Osasuna.
“We have to face Villarreal directly and there is a complicated match with Atletico. Then there are derbies with Osasuna, Alaves, and Eibar. We know it won’t be easy, but we know we have to earn points in these games if we are going to be back in Europe next year. I am confident that the team will fight until the end. Also, seventh place could be good enough depending on the Cup final. Osasuna will be a deceptive game. They are fighting until the end to avoid relegation and our match is in front of their fans. We will be playing for a lot too.”
In closing, De Marcos was asked about the future of Ernesto Valverde and was quick to admit that he hopes the manager stays in Bilbao. If he does choose to move on, De Marcos believes that Cuco Ziganda would be an excellent replacement.
“We have to wait until he says something to know the future. We have to give it time. It would be a luxury for him to stay and we hope that is what he does. He has to do what will make him happiest. Ziganda taking his place? Why not? Coco has been doing great in the academy for years and we all have a good relationship with him. He know the club and the players very well, this is a plus. If he were to take over, he would get used to us quickly and us to him.”
Oscar De Marcos and Athletic Club will be back in action on 1 April when they travel to El Sadar to take on Osasuna. The Lions are undefeated in Basque derbies this season, but Osasuna are currently at the bottom of the table and desperate for points. Facing a desperate rival is never an easy task.