Berizzo “We Have To Be True To Our Way Of Playing”
Eduardo Berizzo has been preparing all week for his biggest test since taking over as the manager of Athletic Club. The Lions will be hosting Real Madrid at the San Mamés on Saturday in what already promises to be a tightly contest match. On Friday Toto appeared before the media to give his pregame press conference and started off with the good news that Aritz Aduriz and Iñigo Martinez have been cleared to play.
“Aduriz and Iñigo Martinez are cleared to play against Real Madrid. They have trained well. With Iago Herrerín, if it were up to him he would play tomorrow. With me, it will take some time. Remiro’s situation is the same. These 19 days without football have served to get the team in shape and everyone on equal ground. There is a lot of versatility so it is important to have time to train. Everyone has elevated their football. As a coach, the break doesn’t bother me, but the player needs to be playing matches. We are two teams with a lot of tradition and the break won’t be an excuse for us.”
When asked about what it takes to beat Real Madrid, Berizzo said that Athletic must stay true to their way of playing football. If they are able to press their opponents into making mistakes it could be a huge game for the Basques, but they must also be aware that Real Madrid are very dangerous on the counter attack.
“We have to be true to our way of playing. When you face an opponent like Madrid you will be tested. We can’t look at how they play, we have to focus on what we are trying to do and interrupting their rhythm. As you can imagine, there are always different things prepared for different opponents, but the general idea of how we play never varies. When you are dominating Madrid with possession is when they are the most dangerous because when they recover the ball they are very fast on the counter. I don’t think they are inferior without Cristiano Ronaldo. Lopetegui has been able to balance the team very well with a 4-3-3 that uses the midfield well and the wings. On an individual level they have lost a great footballer, but they have a lot of other talented players.”
Berizzo also took the time to discuss the fact that three Lezama graduates have made their debut in the first two games of the season in Unai Simón, Peru Nolaskoain, and Gorka Guruzeta. The coach says that they are a reference to others in the youth system and that the dream of playing at the San Mamés is alive and well.
“I could say the same thing about all three. They are serious, with eyes wide open to absorb everything that is happening and that they are learning. Simón and Peru have shown great maturity and Guru is a an attacking options because he has good technique and physicality. He’s reached the first team and shown that he is a real option for us in attack. The reality is the same that everyone has to be willing to do what the coach asks. We have a youth academy that works well. If three kids can debut the dream definitely exists.”
Saturday’s match will be the third consecutive game at the San Mamés to start the season and Berizzo made it clear that the Lions have to use that to their advantage. Fans will already be excited to see their team playing against Real Madrid and he knows that the atmosphere at the stadium will be exciting.
“It is always important for the fans to show up when we play at home. Facing Real Madrid excites the fans and you will see a great atmosphere that we should use to our advantage. Given our opponents strength, it demands that we be up for the task, believe in what we do, and be brave. We are facing a great team that will test our strength. I have never beaten Real Madrid in league play, but I don’t know if anyone else has more favorable statistics. I would love to win, but I’ve never won any match as a coach, I’ve helped the players do it.”
As usual, Berizzo will not decide his starting lineup until the day of the game. He wants to see how the players are getting along and what the level of focus is before kickoff. Toto also took a moment to touch on the fact that some fans have been unhappy with the squad having so many training sessions behind closed doors, saying that sometimes the team needs privacy to put plans into effect.
“I will wait until the last moment to decide the starting lineup. The day of the match is key to observe the behavior of the players and that forces everyone to be on alert. I also recognize that we have trained a lot in private. Sometimes the coach and the players need privacy, and sometimes we are establishes a part of our game that needs secrecy. It isn’t don’t on a whim. I don’t mind the fans coming to see training and I am grateful for them, just sometimes there needs to be privacy so that there is focus.”
Matches between Athletic Club and Real Madrid have been heated over the last few years and Saturday’s meeting should be yet another game full of intensity. Last year neither side was able to come away victorious with both matches ending in draws, which would be considered a good result for Athletic this weekend. Still, the Lions are coming into this one with the desire to win and they will have the full support of the fans at the San Mamés.