When Athletic hosts Leganes at the San Mames on Sunday they will have to do so without Aymeric Laporte. The center-back will miss the game after picking up his fifth yellow card of the season in the 1-0 loss to Alaves last weekend. Xabi Etxeita and Eneko Boveda are the two options to stand in his place and either would love to have the opportunity. In an interview with Mundo Deportivo Etxeita said that it has been difficult playing less minutes this season, but that the most important thing is the success of the team.
“I’m having a hard time. I’m playing less, but you have to help the team and take advantage of the opportunities when you get them. Now you have to be ready for the possibility whenever it comes. I have not played for a long time and we all like to participate. I am very eager to help the team because that is the most important thing – the team.”
When discussing the lack of playing time, Etxeita admitted that everyone would like to compete on a regular basis. Still, he is fulfilling his dream of wearing the Athletic Club shirt which is the most important thing to the 29-year-old. He has wanted to be a Lion since he was a child and is happy with where his career has brought him.
“Those who do not play as much have to continue improving to make things difficult for the other players and for the coach to decide. We all like to play as much as possible, but we have to look at the shield that we defend. That is above all else. I’m where I’ve always wanted to be. Since childhood it has always been my dream to wear the Athletic shirt. I have had good experiences outside, but wearing this shirt has always been my dream.”
Etxeita has had an up and down career while at Athletic. He reminds everyone that his first season was probably the most difficult one of his career. In contrast, s few years ago he was playing at a very high level and was even called up to the Spain National Team. The defender says that he learned a lot from former Captain Carlos Gurpegui who also had a rocky career and retired a club legend.
“The first year I arrived I had a season maybe more complicated that this one. It’s not easy to be out of the group dynamics, but that is where you are. I have to work my best to get better and try to change that. I played with Carlos [Gurpegui] and he has been an example for everyone to follow because he faced a lot of different things. He had been through a lot and it is good to talk to him. Listening to his experiences there is a lot to learn.”
In closing, Etxeita discussed Sunday’s upcoming game and was quick to point out that Leganes will be a difficult opponent. He believes that the Lions have been playing at a very high level and should be able to achieve their goal of qualifying for Europe which would be a nice prize for the departing Gorka Iraizoz.
“Leganes is going to make things difficult for us. We have been fighting for Europe all season and are having a great year. Winning Sunday will help us achieve our goal. It will be Gorka Iraizoz’s last home game so it will be special. He is a goalkeeper who have given a lot to Athletic and has an impeccable trajectory. We hope to give him the achievement of another European qualifying finish in the table.”
As of now there is no way of knowing who Ernesto Valverde will start alongside Yeray in the center of defense. Etxeita does seem to make the most sense due to his ability to play on the left, but that doesn’t mean it is a closed case. Whoever stands in for Laporte will have big shoes to fill, but the rest of the lineup will be made up of the regular faces. With only two games remaining, Athletic could clinch a top six finish and Europa League qualification on Sunday with a victory and a Real Sociedad loss.