In two days Athletic Club will host Levante at the San Mamés in what will be another vitally important game. The Lions currently trail seventh place by eight points and that makes every match a final at this point in the season. Interestingly, Athletic have had better performances away from home this season, something that usually isn’t the case for the Basque giants. Manager Kuko Ziganda said in his pregame press conference that one reason for the shortcomings is that the team hasn’t been loose at home.
“We have not been loose at the San Mamés this season. It has been to our deficit. Games at home have cost us a lot because it would be more normal for us to have more points and more goals at home, but we do not. We have played better games on the road, but I think we have had moments at home but didn’t win the matches. That makes the year even worse.”
Speaking to the media, Ziganda went on to say that fans have got to see the best of Athletic in recent games, but also highlighted the loss against Deportivo as a warning for Monday’s game. The Lions took their opponents for granted and were not able to match their intensity from the first minute of the game. He says that those same mistakes will not happen against Levante who are in a similar situation as Deportivo, fighting against relegation.
“The games against Celta, Villarreal, and Real Madrid were very good matches and we played at the level you expect from this team. The game against Deportivo we were all wrong. We knew they were playing for important points so they were taking a lot of risks. We were not able to match their intensity and concentration at the beginning of the game. On Monday we will not commit the same errors that cost us against Deportivo because we are aware that Levante are in a similar place. We have the experience from that match against Depotivo and we must be attentive and not get lost in the game.”
In closing the manager revealed that there may be a few changes in the starting lineup on Monday. Wednesday’s 1-1 draw against Real Madrid took a lot out of the team and it may be necessary to rotate the squad for another big match. When asked about Aritz Aduriz’s availability the manager said that they still don’t know if he will be able to play after picking up a muscle injury in a recent training session.
“I must evaluate if we are playing with continuity. There may be some small changes because we had to give all we had at the Santiago Bernabeu so rotations may be necessary. I will make that decision, but I am not sure yet. Will Aduriz play? Aritz is an incredible player. At 37 years old he is still incredible and it hurts him to not be playing. A few days ago he had a spectacular training session. He has ambition and has shown that he won’t give up anything. He has been very respectful with the team and with me. I don’t have the slightest doubt that he will be one of the top scorers on the team again next season. We noticed him have some discomfort in his abdomen in training and he wasn’t able to finish the day. We will have to wait and see how he is on Monday.”
Athletic’s record against Levante has been impressive over the last few years. The Lions have managed to win five of the last six meetings at the San Mamés. In fact, Levante’s one win came back in May of 2013 at the final match ever at the old San Mamés. History aside, Monday’s game is not going to be easy. Levante are still in a fight against relegation and are desperate for points. Athletic will have to play their best if they want to take all three points and continue their pursuit of European qualification.