Gaizka Garitano “We Can’t Think We Are Out Of Danger, The Work Has To Continue”
Spirits are high after Athletic played their best game of the season and defeated Sevilla 2-0 at the San Mamés. Now the team will have to refocus as they travel to the Ramón Sánchez Pizjuán on Wednesday for the second leg of the Copa del Rey. Manager Gaizka Garitano spoke to the media on Tuesday and praised the team’s performance over the weekend, but also made it clear that they can’t think they’ve accomplished anything yet.
“We are happy with the match we played on Sunday, for the three points and for the way in which we earned them. It helps make us stronger and build confidence. We have to continue like this and try to add three by three. Things have started to go well in terms of results, but I’m still working like it’s the first day with the same responsibility. The last three results have been good but we can’t stop. I don’t think we are more calm nor more nervous. We are responsible. We know that we are still far down in the table and we can’t think we’re out of danger. The work has to continue, we can’t stop.”
Garitano understands that coming back from a 3-1 deficit on Wednesday won’t be easy. That being said, Athletic have no plans to give up on the Cup and will play to be competitive and try to advance to the next round. Due to this month’s schedule the manager will have to rotate the lineup.
“Realistically it’s difficult. The first leg at the San Mamés wasn’t a good result and it’s hard to come back from 3-1, but we will compete and anything can happen in football. Our goal is to try to advance. It’s an adverse result and we have to win by three goals. The idea is to be competitive tomorrow and face the challenge. Sevilla are a team that, with a lot of space, will hurt you. They are one of the best teams out there, that means something. The players who know are going to play. Everyone who is coming has the opportunity to get not he field, but we’ll see. We plan to play a good game and compete. We’ll see how the match goes, but there will be changes from the lineup on Sunday.”
Over the past few weeks rumors have suggested that midfielder Unai López would leave Athletic on loan, but a move hasn’t materialized. He has been called up for Wednesday’s game and could start against Sevilla. Still, Garitano doesn’t know what the future holds for the 23-year-old Lezama product.
“We don’t know if Unai López will continue with us. He’s been called up, but we’ll wait until the end of the month to see what happens. He is training well and while he is with us he’s one more player that is available. I’m happy with him and we want what is best for him. There is always the possibility of someone leaving on loan or someone else coming in to improve the team. That doesn’t mean one thing will happen or the other. You always have to be prepared for something to happen.”
Iñigo Vicente was called up for the game for the second time this season, the first being last week’s Copa del Rey first leg. Garitano admitted that he wants to keep the starlet close to the first team but says that he expects a good performance if the 21-year-old does make his debut. Peru Nolaskoain is back in the squad as well and could start in defense alongside Unai Nuñez.
“I want Iñigo Vicente to be close to the first team so that he can enter the calls. The idea isn’t for him to make his debut just so that you can say it happened. If he makes his debut I want him to do well. He needs that continuity to stay in the team like others. Peru [Nolaskoain] deserves to be in the team as well. He hasn’t played for me yet for one reason or another but he is available and may have an opportunity. Iñigo has to be close, we’ll see what happens. Regarding Aduriz and Raúl Garcia it isn’t a categorical no, but I don’t think they will be available for Sunday.”
Athletic want to mount a comeback and advance to the next round but it’s highly unlikely that Garitano risks any of his key players unless absolutely needed. Iñaki Williams, Iker Muniain, Dani García, and others could spend the match on the bench with the goal of playing against Villarreal on Sunday. Regardless of who is in the lineup Garitano will demand a good performance and this could be the opportunity that several players need to prove themselves and earn more minutes moving forward.