The international break has finally come to a close and club football is back. On Saturday, Athletic Club will be traveling to El Sadar to take on Basque rivals, Osasuna, in what promises to be an intense game. After Friday’s training, Ernesto Valverde spoke to the media and began by revealing that Yeray has been left out of the squad despite returning to practice. Valverde cited the plethora of games coming up as a reason not to risk the 22-year-old.
“Yeray has trained well, but taking into account that we have games on Tuesday and Friday, that five days ago the injury occurred and that Osasuna is going to force us to be physical, I decided to rest him. We have other players who are well. Aduriz and San José are doing well and they are in perfect shape to start.”
The manager went on to say that Osasuna’s situation makes them dangerous. They are currently at the very bottom of the table and desperate for points. Add in the fact that this is a Derby and Valverde believes that it will be an extremely difficult game.
“We know the situation of our rival, but we also know that in a derby people are especially motivated and the differences are greatly reduced by the intensity of the game. We have a lot of respect for Osasuna, but we want to achieve our goal and these three points are fundamental. Osasuna need many points to get out of their situation, but we need points too. It is a crucial match for us because every game that passes is more important than the last. We have ten games left and each one is a final. We cannot afford to fail and neither can Osasuna. There is extra motivation for this being a Derby, but just winning alone is big enough. That worries me. It would be good to go ahead early, dominate possession, and play with relentlessness.”
The month of April is going to be very difficult for the Lions. With seven matches across the month, and some close together, Valverde believes that the next few weeks will determine who qualifies for Europe next season. It all begins with Saturday’s game at El Sadar, and the Athletic manager warned his team about the movement of Osasuna’s Sergio Leon.
“These three points are just as important as those on Tuesday or the next game. We have three games in six days and seven in April. The matches in April will be giant and they will likely decide who is in Europe next season. What we are facing in El Sadar is not the same as Anoeta, they play differently. Osasuna try to hit from long and press and counter. Sergio Leon moves well in space so we must be forceful and keep them away from goal. Are we favorites? The only favorites are those who show it on the field.”
In closing, Txingurri was asked about a possible renewal with Athletic Club. He was quick to say that he doesn’t know what will happen in the future and that something will be announced when something is decided. He feels no pressure at the moment, well, except for the pressure to win on Saturday.
“I do not know, we’ll see. When I have something to communicate or the club has to communicate, it will be communicated. I do not feel pressure about my future. The only pressure I feel is for tomorrow’s game.”
Other than Yeray’s absence, Valverde will be able to field his strongest lineup. Eneko Boveda is expected to start in Yeray’s place so the defense should not take much of a step down. Mikel San Jose and Aritz Aduriz are also back to perfect and will be back in the starting lineup on Saturday. Osasuna will be fielding a strong lineup as well in hopes of stealing points from their rivals. On paper, Athletic are favorites, but you never know what can happen in a Derby.