Ziganda: The President Wants What Is Best For The Club
With eight games left in the season Athletic Club currently trails the seventh place spot in the La Liga table by ten points. Although Kuko Ziganda’s team are still in the fight for Europe, it has been a disappointing year without a doubt. Club President Josu Urrutia recently gave a press conference and, while he refused to discuss Ziganda’s future, he did say that having a contract isn’t a guarantee for anyone. In his pregame presser on Saturday Ziganda admitted that the President didn’t say anything new or surprising.
“I almost always agree on what he says and thinks. We go hand in hand in regards to everything the club means and I don’t think he said anything new. In the world of football contracts are worth what you are worth. Josu wants the best for the club, which is the most important thing. I’m going to look for the best interests of the club, as long as I’m here, and I’m very clear about that. Will I be coaching next year? Sincerely I am not thinking about that. There are many important matches left. I am responsible for this team. Whether we get bad or good results I am committed. Sometimes it may seem different but we will not give up or let go. We still have the chance to fight for something and we are going to do that.”
One issue that has plagued Athletic this season is injuries. Kepa Arrizabalaga, Iker Muniain, Beñat, Oscar De Marcos, Mikel Balenziaga, and Yeray have all missed at least one month of action and were all expected to be starters. Ziganda said that this is the first time all year that everyone has been available in training and revealed that Iker Muniain who just returned from a torn ACL is expected to play some minutes against Villarreal.
“For the first time this year we have everyone available. Yeray is the one who has had less preparation going into the match, but the rest are available to play on Monday. We will see next for Yeray against Deportivo. It was a disappointment that I couldn’t get Muniain on in the last game but Balenziaga thought he had an injury so we had to take him off. He has been waiting six months and doing so much work. He has been training well and the idea is for him to get some minutes on Monday. He’s had an incredible recovery and is much better, although he will lack some pace as if it were a preseason game. He needs the minutes and he’s earned it.”
Reaching the seventh place spot in the table will be extremely difficult for Athletic, but it isn’t impossible right now. The manager said that as long as they are in the fight they will will not give up. He also highlighted his team’s performance against Celta Vigo last week, admitting that their high pressing took their energy out in the final minute which saw the Lions surrender an equalizer.
“Of the possibility of seventh or six, yes mathematically we are still fighting although it will be difficult. This team is reliable and strong as we demonstrated against Celta. Things will come out for good or bad, but we will try to finish our best. Drawing with Celta was hard because we played a great game. Few teams had played as well against Celta as we did until the final 15 minutes, but the game lasts 90 minutes and we were not able to hold it. The intensity required a brutal effort. The team is fine physically, I have no doubt, but we paid for the high intensity at the end of the game.”
Looking ahead to the game against Villarreal, Ziganda admitted that the Yellow Submarine will be furiously looking for a win after losing to Malaga over the weekend. He knows that they are deep in a fight for Europe as well and that makes this match difficult. Still, if Athletic can play their game they have every reason to believe that they can win at La Cerámica.
“We cannot lament the past because we have another difficult game now. Villarreal are hurt by their defeat at La Rosaleda. They didn’t expect to lose and I imagine they will want to get rid of the bad taste in their mouths. They are in the European battles and don’t want to let that escape. We must play another great game and show that we will not give up against anyone.”
Every game is a final for Athletic Club now. If they are serious about fighting for seventh place it will require stringing together several wins and likely not losing a single game over the final eight matches. This summer is expected to bring several changes around the club, but for now all of the focus is on beating Villarreal at La Cerámica. It definitely won’t be an easy game, but the Lions seem ready for a fight.