Mikel Balenziaga “I Feel Just As Important As I Did When I Was Playing More”
Mikel Balenziaga might not be playing as many minutes now that Yuri Berchiche is in the team, but he’s still happy to be helping the team. The 30-year-old started Sunday’s match against Barcelona and put in a great performance and now he’s already looking ahead to the next match. Following Thursday’s press conference the left-back spoke to the media and expressed his belief that this Athletic team is special.
“I feel just as important as I did when I was playing more. I felt good and comfortable on Sunday. I had the opportunity to play and I try to take advantage of the confidence that was placed in me. We are all together in this, this team is special, and if I do not play then I have to support those who are playing and work hard so they can count on me. Huesca don’t have the name of Barcelona, but there are three points available that would give us the chance to climb the table and leave the area below. That is what we are still trying to do.”
Athletic weren’t able to take all 3 points against Barcelona despite being the better team, but Balenziaga says he is happy with the result. The team is playing much better defense under Gaizka Garitano and they know that the upcoming game against Huesca will be another huge test.
“I think the point against Barcelona is a good think and now we can only think about Huesca. We’ve been better defensively. We have more tranquility, but I think that when we are tight we give the best version of ourselves. The match against Huesca is one which we will have to be tight, with the knife between our teeth, and try to play our game.”
If Athletic manage to beat Huesca they will climb very close to the European zone of the table, but their hosts need the points too. A victory would bring Huesca closer to moving out of the relegation zone. Balenziaga, and the rest of the team, are fully aware of the magnitude of Monday night’s match and the importance of playing their football.
“It’s a very important match because they are a complicated opponent. These are three important points, for both sides, and if we win we would start climbing positions. They are playing well and if they beat us they get a little closer to salvation. It’s going to be complicated and we have to go with the mindset of winning. We’ve earned a lot of points in the previous matches and that is what we must continue doing. We have to press Huesca and play our football.”
During the game against Barcelona a few of the Blaugrana players complained of Athletic’s physical play, but Balenziaga doesn’t think anything was harsh. He knows that he committed fouls and said that Lionel Messi never complained about anything throughout the match.
“I heard some voices saying that we were very physical, that we took challenges to the limit. It wasn’t like that. The fouls I committed the other day were not harsh. There were three fouls in a row and as far as Messi is concerned, he is a player who holds everything well. In that aspect he is very noble. He never has bad words or bad gestures.”
In closing, Balenziaga was asked about the second yellow card shown to Oscar De Marcos in the final minutes of the game. The left-back didn’t see the play clearly, but trusted his teammate who tried to tell the referee that it wasn’t a handball. After seeing the replay Balenziaga thinks the booking was the wrong call.
“At the time I didn’t see if it was a hand ball or not, but as soon as I approached the referee I heard Oscar saying that it wasn’t a hand and, knowing him, I believed it. The replay showed that it wasn’t a hand so I think the second card was unfair. We were informed that VAR was also looking at the last play of the game. It’s true that in that moment you get really hot with nerves, but I think they were right, it wasn’t a penalty.”
As Athletic prepare for Monday’s match against Huesca they are doing so with the knowledge that Dani García and Oscar De Marcos will be unavailable due to suspension. Aritz Aduriz is still out injured as well which means that Garitano will have to change some things around. Mikel San José and Ander Capa are expected to be back in the starting lineup, but Mikel Balenziaga will likely be on the bench. Either way, the 30-year-old is happy to support his teammates and he is always ready when the manager needs him.