Athletic Club will play their last game of the season on Sunday when they travel to Madrid to take on Atletico. The Lions need a win to guarantee their place in next year’s Europa League, but they could still qualify depending on how other results go around the league. This will also be the final game ever at the Vicente Calderon so it will be special for the hosts. Former Atletico midfielder Raul Garcia spoke to the media following Wednesday’s training session and was clear that his team has to win on Sunday.
“As I have always said, I trust this team. We have to win to achieve our goal of qualifying for Europe and we know that Atletico aren’t going to make things easy for us. The only thing I’m worried about is my team and taking three points. A lot is being made about Atletico being without several defenders, but every team is struggling at the end of the year. They are still going to field eleven players and will be tough to beat. We have to do our best to play our game. We were annoyed at having not win last weekend so we are ready for this game. We will come out with intensity, but we know that they will too.”
When asked about getting help from other clubs on the last day, Garcia said that he doesn’t want to have to look to anyone else. Athletic can control their own destiny and that is exactly what they want to do. Athletic is currently tied with Real Sociedad but hold the head-to-head tiebreaker. As long as they finish with the same result on Sunday it will also be good enough to qualify for Europe.
“Speculating about how other clubs will turn out is worthless. Winning lets us not have to count on their performances, so we depend on ourselves. I see this team playing very well and we are all aware of what we need to do to accomplish our goal. We want to take initiative and take advantage of their weaknesses. What are their weaknesses? I’ll tell you on Monday, we have a clear game plan and we will try to enforce that. Last year we played a good match at the Calderon so we have to go with the desire and belief that we know we can win.”
In closing, the 30-year-old admitted that saying goodbye to the Vicente Calderon will be a special moment for him. He played for Atletico from 2007-2015 and enjoyed many special moments there. Still, his focus is helping Athletic Club win and qualify for Europe for the fourth consecutive season.
“I live a lot of good moments at the Vicente Calderon, as well as bad moments and learning moments. The game will have nostalgia, just like the San Mames. I still have contact and friendships with players there, but when you are about play each other you can’t have messages going back and forth. I will send messages and make calls later.”
Atletico Madrid will be without several important defenders due to injuries and suspension. Luckily for Athletic, they will have Aymeric Laporte back in the lineup after missing last weekend’s match through suspension. Ernesto Valverde will be able to field his strongest possible lineup and they will need to be at their best to beat Atletico and seal a top six finish in the La Liga table.