Garitano: This Is A Special Week For Us
Bilbao Athletic have booked their place in the promotional playoffs and will play their first leg against Villarreal B on Sunday. Over the course of the season the Katxorros became one of the strongest teams in the entire Segunda B, but now the real work begins as they start their pursuit for promotion. Manager Gaizka Garitano addressed the media on Friday and said that this tournament is a big step for his players who dream of reaching the first team, while also making it clear that they haven’t achieved anything yet.
“The kids have earned this reward for a very good season, but the mentality isn’t to think of this as a prize because if we enter the playoffs with that mentality it won’t help us win. If we think we have done enough then we won’t have the motivation we need in these games. We have to have the mentality of winners and that can make us go further. We are competing for promotion because of our great season, but also because of the way we have trained. This is a special week for us and a learning process for the players. If you want to play in the first team, you have to get used to playing at this level and with this pressure. You must improve your performances and know how to handle difficult environments in which you will play. For the players, this is a step towards making it to the first team.”
Garitano then turned his attention to their opponents. Villarreal B have had a very good season, finishing second in their group, and boast several top quality players. Eight members of the current squad have debuted for the first team, but Garitano believes Bilbao Athletic can advance to the next round if they play their best. He said the two teams are similar to each other and that is a good thing.
“We are competing against a team that is very strong and has great players. If we go through all three rounds it will be because we earned it. I am one of those who believes in what we are doing. If we play our best, we have many possibilities. We know it will be 180 minutes of important football. Villarreal are strong. They play with a 4-4-2 and are very old school with players who have competed at higher levels. They combine play well, have dynamic players, and a lot of quality and speed. In that sense, they are a team similar to ours. When they lose the ball we have to take advantage quickly.”
It was recently announced that Sunday’s match will take place at the San Mamés immediately following Athletic’s fixture against Espanyol. While Bilbao Athletic do not have much experience playing in big stadiums, the manager believes can only be a good thing for his players. The team is really excited about playing at the San Mamés and must be used as an incentive for getting a good result.
“Playing at the San Mamés against a very good opponent is an important part of the development of these footballers. Because of the group they are in, Villarreal are used to playing in bigger stadiums because some of their opponents have been in the Primera and Segunda. I don’t consider it a problem, playing at the San Mamés can only be a positive. More fans want to come see us, and they all can’t fit at Lezama. It is true that we feel very comfortable at Lezama and we are on a good streak. Playing at the San Mamés may feel strange, but the players are very excited about it. It won’t be an excuse. For us it is an incentive.”
Bilbao Athletic have won their last 12 home games at Lezama, so making the switch to the San Mamés is slightly controversial. That being said, all of the players want to play at the first team stadium and are excited about the prospect of competing in front of a much bigger crowd than they are used to. The Katxorros are serious contenders for promotion, but they know it won’t be easy. Sunday’s match against Villarreal B is just the beginning of their road to the Segunda and you can bet that the players will have all the motivation they need to put on a great performance.