Athletic Club’s quest for seventh place took a step in the right direction on Monday night when the Lions defeated Villarreal 3-1 to move to wishing seven points of their target. They will once again be looking to make up points on Saturday when they host Deportivo La Coruña at the San Mamés. Athletic will be without Ander Iturraspe and Unai Nuñez who are suspended; but in his pregame press conference Kuko Ziganda revealed that every other player is available which is certainly welcome news for the Basque giants.
“Everyone is well, in perfect conditions. Everyone is available, except for those suspended. Yeray has been able to train with everyone and is doing well. It will be necessary to evaluate whether he should start against Deportivo or not. A decision hasn’t been made for who will start in defense, we have to wait. As far as the midfielder, for Iturraspe, yes a decision has been made. Muniain is not going to start. He is a person who transmits joy and energy, which is good for the group. We already saw him at a good level in his return, he is an injection for the whole group.”
Ziganda went on to praise his side’s great form over the last two games, saying that having more time to prepare for matches and a healthy squad have played a big role. The manager would like to see the success continue in the final seven games of the season and says that the Lions will continue fighting for European qualification as long as there is a chance.
“There are games left, there are points left so we will try to reach our goal. We have now had two games in a row playing at the level we aspire to, and there are some conditions that affected that such as having more time to prepare and more players available. I hope that tomorrow will be another good game like the previous two. A lot of things help now, such as having a more consistent team. Let’s see if we can play the remaining games with consistency.”
One issue that has been discussed lately is the fact that Aritz Aduriz has not been in the starting lineup despite being healthy. Ziganda addressed this by saying that the striker has had to play a lot of games this season and is finally getting a rest while Iñaki Williams is in good form. Still, the 37-year-old wants to play every day and is an absolute luxury to have on the bench.
“Aduriz is always a clear option for us and a luxury to have available. He gives us security and tranquility. He has had a hard year of playing a lot and now he can get a little more rest and take advantage of Iñaki’s form. We have thought it was a good time for the rotation, but he is a tough guy who wants to play. He wants to be on the field every single day and for every single game.”
Looking ahead to Saturday’s game, Ziganda made it clear that Deportivo will not be an easy opponent. The visitors currently sit in the relegation zone of the La Liga table and are eight points away from climbing out. For them every point is precious and that is why they will be a dangerous side on Saturday. The Basques will have to be at their very best.
“There are no guarantees. We do not depend on ourselves, but we have a clear goal of seven points to make up. Deportivo need eight points to get out of the relegation zone so we won’t have it easy. Our only goal is to win, that is the only good result. They are a team in need of points so it is going to be a very hard game. If we are strong we will try to play in their field, although it will be quite different from Villarreal. It is another game against another type of opponent. It will demand our maximum effort.”
If Athletic Club can pull off another victory on Saturday they could move to within four points of the seventh place spot in the La Liga table. At this point every game is a final and every point is vital. The Lions have certainly been playing their best football over the last two games and if they can keep that up there is reason to believe that their quest for European qualification can become a reality. It won’t be easy, but Athletic are ready for a fight.