Athletic Club is looking to rebound from their first loss of the season, but it won’t be easy. The Lions will host Atletico Madrid on Wednesday at the San Mamés in what is already promising to be an intense match. Before Tuesday’s training session at Lezama, manager Kuko Ziganda spoke to the media and said that the team cannot afford to think about the loss with such a big rival coming up. History says that Atletico should walk away victorious, but Ziganda only sees that as motivation.
“Losing is never a good thing and you have to respond to those situations. The most important thing is to be prepared for the opponent of tomorrow and to be plugged in and motivated. We have to give our best version because it is going to be an intense match. We are having a hard time scoring goals and we can play more fluidly, but there was a dynamism in Berlin and Las Palmas. If we stick to history this is one game that we have not been able to win. Statistically it is very difficult, but we are near the top of the table and we measure ourselves against this season. The past can only serve as motivation.”
The manager went on to say that his team knows what Atletico Madrid are capable of. They are a very strong team, but he believes that Athletic is as well. Ziganda stands by his rotational policy and says that every player in the team should be important.
“We know what they are capable of. Against Roma they were in the final third nearly the entire second half, but they also like to counter attack. They were not able to reinforce their squad over the summer, but they have a large squad and kept all of their key players. They are a very strong team and so are we. I do not know why our rotations are drawing so much attention because others in Europe do something similar. The idea is to try to take advantage of all of the players that we have in the team. Everyone should feel important and there will come times when we have to rely on other players.
In closing, Ziganda did not wish to discuss the rumors surround Kepa Arrizabalaga’s contract negotiations. He says that he is optimistic that the keeper will stay at Athletic and also praised Aritz Aduriz and Aymeric Laporte who have been vital to the team’s success this season. The manager also took the time to mention Iker Undabarrena, a very important player at Bilbao Athletic, who suffered a second straight torn ACL and is likely finished for the season.
“I have a lot more things to think about than that [Kepa’s renewal]. I’m focused on Atletico, who are very good. I have no reason not to be optimistic with Kepa. As long as I have the choice, I’m optimistic. Aduriz is our reference at striker and he needs very little to score goals. In Berlin and Las Palmas we have chances, but did not make the most of them. We have to generate more chances. Laporte is doing well and has looked good. He is young and shows no signs of weakness or fatigue. He is an important pillar for us. De Marcos and Rico will not be available, and hopefully there are no surprises with anyone else. Iker Undabarrena’s injury? It’s a tough blow for him and the club. He’s a guy with special qualities. We know they football he can play and his possibilities. He has examples here of where to look with things like this. He’s great and he’s going to come back stronger.”
Athletic Club currently hold sole possession of sixth place in the La Liga table and trail Atletico Madrid by only one point. The San Mamés is definitely a fortress, but defeating a team like Atletico is never easy. That being said, if the Lions can earn at least one point on Wednesday it will be seen as a victory. With key players back in the starting lineup, Kuko Ziganda’s side is ready for a fight and that is exactly what this match is going to be.