Athletic Club played their first preseason friendly against Basel on Wednesday and it was certainly an odd affair. Mikel Balenziaga was sent off after just thirty minutes of play and that greatly affected the rest of the match. Cuco Ziganda spoke after the game and said that he is satisfied with his team’s showing despite the 3-2 loss, remarking that they had strong moments and weak moments.
“It is a friendly game that serves to prepare for the regular season. I think that from that point of view you have to be satisfied with what the team is giving. I liked their attitude and the skill they showed. We started well, with 15-20 minutes of being in control, considering the opponent and the atmosphere that we are in. Then there was a moment when we drowned and they got to play with the ball the way they liked. We had difficult times and we had opportunities. After the sending off we again showed our personality and how we want to play.”
Ziganda went on to say that the team’s mentality in the second half was good. The Lions did give up a late header from a corner which was the difference maker and the coach revealed that his players were zonal marking because they were down one man. It is something that the team really hadn’t practiced and that made it difficult.
“In the second half the mentality of the team was good. We had good support and coverage considering that we were playing with ten. The penalty is that the game went in such a way. The truth is that we were testing some things for these situations, but had only been doing so for a short time. We did not defend well because we were trying some new things. We are used to man marking on set pieces and being a man down we have to mark a zone. It is something that we will have to train more on going forward.”
In closing, Ziganda said that there is no fixed lineup yet and that everyone knows what they have to do to earn a regular role in the team. He highlighted several players who put in a good performance, while praising those who are capable of featuring in more than one position. In the end, he revealed that he hasn’t ruled out playing Oscar De Marcos in a more attacking role if needed.
“Although not everyone starts from zero, it is clear that there is no fixed starter. Those who want to improve their role already know what they have to do. I thought some showed themselves well. Vesga had a good game and Benat showed himself strong with the ball at his feet. Of course we have things that we need to correct at specific times. De Marcos and Muniain can play in multiple positions and that is something special too. It has been a pleasure seeing everyone play. The normal thing is that De Marcos will play as a right-back, but I don’t rule out anything with Oscar. He has so much ability, so much energy, and so much nerve that I cannot rule out anything.”
Athletic Club will continue training in Switzerland over the next few days and will play their next friendly on Saturday against FC Sion. One day before that match the Lions will find out who will be their Europa League qualifying opponent when the draw takes place on 14 July. There are less than three weeks until Athletic play their first official match and that means that they can’t waste a single day.