Iturraspe: This Is An Important Match To Make Our Fans Happy Again
Athletic Club will travel to San Sebastián on Saturday to face off with Basque rivals Real Sociedad in a Derby that promises drama. The Lions have had a very disappointing season and the players are aware that fans want something to be excited about. Winning a Derby is always a great way to give joy to the fans and that is just one more motivating factor to come away with three points at the Anoeta. Ahead of the match, Ander Iturraspe addressed the media on Thursday and admitted that, with everything that has happened this season, the Basque Derby is now the most important thing.
“The demand is what it is. This season has been irregular and now, perhaps the Derby is more important. We have to admit that we are playing games very different from one another, so we have had to ask ourselves a lot of questions. It is true that we have played some very good games against important rivals on the road, and also some bad games at home against teams below us in the table. It is complicated to explain. The San Mamés has always been our main guarantee to get points, but this season it just hasn’t been. Fans are understandably mad at us and we just have to accept that. We are not showing our best on the pitch.”
Iturraspe went on to say that this game will be the perfect chance to give the fans something to be happy about again. He says that the Lions have to win in Anoeta and that even if they can’t qualify for Europe that they must fight every game to finish as high up on the La Liga table as possible.
“At the beginning of the last game things went well, but after that the team couldn’t keep the rhythm. Now we are looking forward to playing the Derby. We’ve got a great chance with with Derby, it is a deciding match. We really need to win this game. This is an important match to make our fans happy again. It seems rather unlikely that we can qualify for Europe, but we are still going to fight. There is still a big difference between finishing in 14th or 8th place. I have played good and bad matches and I’d like to finish the season with some consistency.”
One of the biggest talking point going into Saturday’s Basque Derby is that of Iñigo Martinez. This will be the 26-year-old’s first game back at the Anoeta since making the switch to Athletic back in the January transfer window. Iturraspe says that the defender is doing well and that he doesn’t think the drama will affect Martinez in the match. Real Sociedad fans have been planning ways to whistle Martinez on his return, but Iturraspe says that you have to drown all of that out and just focus on playing the game.
“I don’t think it will be such a difficult day for him, not at all. We will play a game and he is with us. We will try to enjoy a good performance and get a victory. I do not give importance to what the fans do. It is normal for everyone to talk about it, but he has been fine. He’s going to face it like a normal game and isolate everything else. It is a Derby so the environment will be intense and healthy. I hope it’s a great match. Real Sociedad has very good players and we have a lot of respect for them. Lately they have been better with a new coach. This will be a duel of two great teams.”
Athletic Club’s hopes of qualifying for Europe seem nearly impossible at this point. However, the Lions still want to finish as high up the La Liga table as possible and are determined to fight for every point until the end of the season. Saturday’s Basque Derby presents the perfect opportunity to put in a great performance in a rival’s stadium, but it will be far from an easy match. All eyes will be on the Derby this weekend and that puts even more pressure on Athletic and Kuko Ziganda.