Mikel San José “I Am Very Optimistic That Athletic Will Fight For Europe”
The season has not gone according to plan for Athletic who currently find themselves just two spots off of the relegation zone in the La Liga table. On Tuesday night Mikel San José was a guest on the Fuera de Juego show on Radio Euskadi and discussed the situation. He said that the team is not concerned at this point, but that they are aware of their issues.
“We wouldn’t say that we are concerned about where we are in the table. Of course we would like to have more points and be looking up instead of down. We are aware that we are struggling to win and that it has been difficult for us to win. It is a very competitive league. We have to put some victories together and get a positive streak of taking three points if we are going to go higher.”
San José went on to say that he firmly believes that Athletic will still fight for a place in Europe this season. He is optimistic and is hoping to see the Lions start to string together a few victories in order to begin quickly climbing the league table.
“The team will be safe and fight for Europe. I am very optimistic and and certain that it will end up like that, but that has to be demonstrated on the field. We have to catch a good wave. So far we aren’t getting positive sensations, but we are going to end up having them. I don’t have any doubt about that. I know what the situation is and I know that the fans expect more. They want more and demand more. We understand the fans and we work hard to improve so that they will be rewarded in the way they deserve.”
One of the biggest problems for Athletic this season has been the lack of creativity in attack. The midfielder admitted that it has caused issues in some games, but denied the rumor that Eduardo Berizzo tried to change up the system over the weekend when the Lions hosted Valencia.
“There have been games in which the team has created more chances and others where it was less, like against Valencia. We are not having great success, but the most important thing is to create chances. The other day there were changes in the lineup but you don’t have to be dramatic and think that it’s a change of style. The changes were made because it was our third match in six days. It was the same idea, but with different players.”
Speaking of Berizzo, San José says that the team loves their manager. They fully support him and think that he brings the same leadership as Ernesto Valverde. The 29-year-old is also optimistic about the fact that it has been difficult for opponents to beat Athletic and stated that the Basques will make it difficult for Espanyol and Atletico in their upcoming games.
“We like Berizzo’s ideas. We support it and we will always go with him to the death. He is a basis for us like Ernesto was and he gave us success during the four years that he was here. We needed that essence last year. I’m optimistic. We’ve struggled to win, but the data says that it’s difficult for anybody to beat us. Even in our worse two games at Ipurua and Vallecas we were not beaten. We have to play the entire 90 minutes against Espanyol and Atletico. That’s the way it’s going to be and we will not lose face in those games.”
It has been a long time since Athletic beat Espanyol on the road but the team is hoping to change that on Monday night. San José highlighted the need for the team to keep a clean sheet and press well if they are to leave Barcelona with all three points.
“It is important to play a complete game. In a match where you generate few changes it is important to keep a clean sheet. That is vital and the weapon that helps you win games. We’ve gone a long time without winning on Espanyol’s field, but to change that we must do things well and play our best game. It will be a very favorable day to change things. To end the streak we have to press well and I think it will end on Monday.”
In closing, San José was asked about the fact that he hasn’t played regular minutes this year. He wasn’t afraid to admit that some players will be more involved than others and says that he is working to earn more chances. At the end of the day, he believes that the success of the team as a whole is the most important thing.
“I’m a quiet person who takes things as they come. They players see things differently and we have a big squad. We all knew there were going to be players who are more involved. For my part, I have to continue working. I hope to keep getting minutes but the team is the most important aspect. It is very positive to have Beñat and Lekue back and we are happy that everyone is available. Having Beñat back is very nice because he brings competition in the midfield. It is great news along with Iñigo who had a hard injury. He comes back with desire and surely stronger than ever.”
Athletic face two very difficult road games ahead as they will travel to Espanyol on Monday followed by a trip to Atletico Madrid on Saturday. The Lions will need to be at their best if they want to beat Espanyol who have been playing great football this season. At this point draws can only feel like losses and it is important that the Basques start adding three points at a time. Mikel San José is confident in his team and coach.