Eduardo Berizzo “The Tension Is Building And I’ve Seen It All Week”
Eduardo Berizzo is gearing up to coach his very first Basque Derby for Athletic Club with the Lions set to host Real Sociedad at the San Mamés on Friday night. The manager gave his pregame press conference on Thursday and started off by revealing that both Iñigo Martinez and Aritz Aduriz are available to play. However, Toto still won’t choose a starting lineup until the day of the game.
“Tomorrow we will choose the starting lineup and some of the alternates. I like to choose lineup that will play the system and pressure our opponents, but as always there will be four defenders, three midfielders, and three attackers. Iñigo Martinez and Aritz Aduriz are available for the game and Iago Herrerín is back. I will decide who plays, but there are arguments for Herrerín and for Unai Simón. Either one will be a guarantee for us. Hodei Oleaga has already returned to Bilbao Athletic.”
Real Sociedad will be without a few key players. Mikel Merino is injured and Theo Hernandez and Juanmi are both suspended for the game. That being said, Berizzo still expects to face a strong opponent who will have plenty of motivation with this being a Derby match on the road.
“Real Sociedad will be without some players, but I still expect to see a strong team because this is a Derby. It means a lot to the players, the coaches, and especially to the fans. You have to find an emotional balance to play well. The Basque Derby is comparable to Boca-River because it’s at the same level. Every Derby is the biggest there is to the fans, it doesn’t matter if its in Argentina or in Spain. These are two teams with history and a desire to win.”
The team has been preparing all week and Berizzo said that he could feel the tension. The players are excited, but the manager doesn’t think there will be a favorite in Friday’s match. There will be no excuses if the Lions can’t put in a strong performance in front of their own fans.
“There is tension building up for this game and I’ve seen it all week. The players are excited and focused because this match is unique. Real Sociedad have suffered some of the same circumstances that we have had to overcome. Asier Garitano seems to be doing a good job. He was great with previous clubs and brings new ideas. They are a strong opponent and there will be no favorites tomorrow. There’s no excuses, you have to go out on the field and play.”
When asked about the fact that Iñaki Williams has only scored one goal this year, Berizzo admitted that he isn’t concerned. He believes that the 24-year-old has still been dangerous and he chooses to look at the positive. Athletic want to qualify for Europe again this season, but the most important thing is play football that makes the fans happy.
“Iñaki will find serenity, I’m not worried about his lack of goals. He’s a great player that is always around the goal and I look at the positive. In previous years the team used crosses to find the heads of Raúl [García] and Aduriz and scored a lot that way. That can still happen, we just have to find them with our passes. Iñaki is still young but he will score goals. Above all else, the most important thing is to make the fans happy and develop a reliable and successful way of playing. We would love to qualify for Europe, but you have to take it one game at a time.”
In closing, Berizzo made it clear that he believes Athletic is a special club. Now being on the inside he has seen just how close everyone is and the role the club has on the community. The Argentine is happy and proud to be managing Athletic and is also excited to see that Peru Nolaskoain made the decision to renew his contract with the Basque giants.
“Athletic is a family. It’s intimate and close. There is a special quality that makes it endearing and Lezama is incredible. It has a very great transcendence and a social impact, but still retains the strong intimacy. The sense of belonging and the philosophy are much more palpable from the inside. Everyone does their job with enthusiasm and I’m happy to be a part of this club. I’m proud that they asked me to come. Obviously Alex Remiro has every right to decide his future just like the club decides the squad. I’m happy to have Peru Nolaskoain and I’m happy that he made the decision to renew.”
Berizzo will have a few difficult decisions to make for Friday’s game. Iñigo Martinez and Aritz Aduriz could both play, but there are questions about their fitness level. At the same time, the return of Iago Herrerín could be huge but Unai Simón has been playing at a high level. No matter what happens Athletic will field a very strong lineup and will be looking to take all three points against their biggest rival at the San Mamés.