Gaizka Garitano’s first season managing Bilbao Athletic has gone better than anyone could have dreamed. After a few months of finding their rhythm, the Cachorros quickly became one of the best teams in the entirety of the Segunda B and finished the season having won 12 straight matches at Lezama. Sunday’s 2-0 win over Tudelano booked their place in the promotional playoffs where they have been seeded against Villarreal B, but Garitano says that he didn’t really care who they were drawn with.
“Truthfully, I didn’t care about who our opponent would be. Villarreal B is a good and strong team, but once you get into the playoffs every team is strong. If you want to earn promotion you have to go through all three rounds. There is no easy opponent. We will have to play the first game at home because we finished fourth in our group, but that doesn’t matter to me. We will try to get a good result in the first leg and then see what happens. I have asked my players to be competitive and mentally strong because we are going to face a lot of things now. We will play two long matches, but I think we are ready, both physically and tactically. We must win these games to advance and play another strong team.”
Garitano is very familiar with the promotion playoffs. When he took over Eibar back in 2012 he led the team to the Segunda before guiding them to the Primera the following year. He has since turned Bilbao Athletic into a very fearsome side that could actually be the strongest team in the entire playoffs. The Cachorros boast a deadly attacking line, a wall in defense, and a midfield that consistently ties everything together. If they can continue playing at the level they have to this point they will have a serious chance at promotion.
Villarreal B will pose a difficult test for Bilbao Athletic. As Garitano said, there are no easy opponents at this stage. The Yellow Submarine’s reserve side finished second in their group and were led in scoring by Adrián Damau who netted ten times this season. In fact, the team currently boasts eight players who have made their debut for the first team, which is something to take seriously. If Bilbao Athletic are serious about fighting for promotion they will have to beat the best. That quest will begin this weekend with the first leg taking place in Bilbao where the Cachorros have won 12 straight matches.