Just days after defeating Osasuna 2-1 at El Sadar, Athletic Club will be back in action on Tuesday when they host Espanyol at the San Mames. Looking ahead to the match, Ernesto Valverde spoke to the media on Monday and lamented the difficult schedule, but said that it is a great opportunity for his team.
“It is a hurried week, everything is compacted. There are three games in six days. Some weeks we have a long break between games and others we play three times in six days. I don’t know why. It’s too many close together, but it is what it is. From the beginning of the season I saw Espanyol as one of our rivals and we know they are difficult to beat. Just like us, this is an important opportunity for them, we must be decisive.”
Valverde went on to say that this is the most important part of the season and that a win would put the Lions in a great position to climb the table. He wasn’t happy with the performance again Osasuna, but was delighted with the result.
“This is the decisive part of the season. A win would mean a lot and could put pressure on other rivals. We will not change what we have been doing, but we must polish up those little flaws. I did not have a good feeling in Pamplona because we could have finished the game earlier. We have a lot of respect for Osasuna and we got the result we needed. It wasn’t our best performance, but we gave a lot in that match.”
On a good note, defender Yeray has been cleared to play after suffered a double fracture in his nose last week. Valverde praised the fact that the entire team is healthy again for the first time in a very long time.
“Yeray is available and has recovered from the problems he had. He is doing well. The best part in all of this is that we have the entire team available and everyone is determined and working towards our common objective from the beginning of the season. The first goal is sixth place and then fifth. We are looking forward and won’t give up on anything.”
In closing, the Athletic manager said that he has a lot of respect for Espanyol and knows that they are a difficult rival to beat. When asked about his future at the club, Valverde said he will discuss anything with President Josu Urrutia before saying anything to the media.
“I have a lot of respected for Espanyol because of how they play and the results they can get. I expect them to play much like us, taking advantage of possession and using their speed. The defend well as a unit and it is hard to overcome the network of players in the midfield. We have to play out best and also watch out for Victor Sanches who has been a specialist at scoring against us. My future? I will give my decision after communicating with the President, not before. I am calm and this week is enough to worry about right now.”
A win on Tuesday could see Athletic climb as high as 5th place with help from other matches around La Liga. The Lions are trying to qualify for Europe yet again, but they have stiff competition from Real Sociedad and Villarreal. Athletic arguably has the easiest schedule of the three, but these are the games that they have to take advantage of and win.