Athletic Club will be playing their second match of the La Liga season on Sunday when they travel just down the road to Ipurua to face off with Eibar. It will be the first Basque derby of the season and promises to be an intense match between the two local rivals. Following Saturday’s training session, manager Kuko Ziganda spoke to the media and revealed that Raúl García may return to the team after missing out midweek with flu-like symptoms.
“Raúl García has been practicing with the group since yesterday, although he hasn’t had the same rhythm. With Iturraspe I’m going to wait for the break, which is fine, so that he can get back to better conditions of pace and timing. There will be some insurance in the team, not just because we are playing against Eibar, who demand a lot of pressure. There is no respite and we must solve situations when we do not have the ball. We have had little time to prepare for this game, but we are delighted that this is the case because it means we are playing in Europe. You have to keep your mind fresh.”
Ziganda then discussed Eibar as a team, saying that they are definitely playing the style of football that manager José Luis Mendilibar likes to utilize. They will look to attack in numbers and create chances around the box. Ziganda also mentioned that derbies in the Basque Country are special because of the respect involved between clubs.
“Eibar maintains the same style of their coach Mendilibar. He has his own idiosyncrasies and likes to play attacking football, especially at Ipurua. Besides this being a derby, they will be very motivated and focused. They will try to create near the area like last year. Mendi is from here and he has his philosophy. His mentality is the same and his teams always play well. The derbies here are something that both teams can enjoy. There is respect. That isn’t always the case in other places.”
Despite not having a lose a game, Ziganda admitted that still doesn’t think Athletic are playing their best. He said that the team is lacking rhythm and continuity, but that things are getting better every week.
“I am special in that I like to do things very well and I rarely have the feeling that we play a 10 out of 10 game. I aspire to play very good football, to win, and for the fans to enjoy it and be proud. We have achieved reaching the group stage in Europe, which was the most important thing. Now we can continue improving. We still don’t have the continuity or rhythm that I want but we are getting better. This team is working hard.”
In closing, the Athletic manager stated that Yeray’s recovery from cancer relapse is right on track and that the defender will likely be able to return in mid-September which was the scheduled return date when he was first diagnosed. He also took a moment to praise Unai Nuñez and Iñigo Córdoba for taking advantage of their debuts, but admitted that they have to continue improving.
“Yeray’s recovery is going according to plan and he is doing well. We know that he has his last chemo session but with patience and calmness he could return at the anticipated time. Nuñez and Córdoba? They are taking advantage of their opportunities. They can get more little by little. Fans are praising them and their teammates are there for them and correcting them when needed. They are the news of the new season and are only being looked at for their good. Later we will see their weaknesses and that is why you have to be constantly improving.”
Sunday’s game is going to be very big for Athletic. Now that they have booked their place in the Europa League group stage, the Lions are turning their attention back to La Liga and want to get their first win of the season. Last season the team struggled away from home, but were very strong in Basque derbies. That being said, Eibar do not want to drop points in a derby in front of their own fans. This match is going to be immensely entertaining and one that you won’t want to miss.