Gaizka Garitano “After Losing A Match The Best Thing Is To Play Again As Soon As Possible”
Athletic may have suffered a disappointing loss to Valencia over the weekend, but they are already looking ahead to the next match. On Friday the Lions will welcome Espanyol to San Mamés where a win could move the team as high as a tie for 7th place in the table. Gaizka Garitano addressed the media following training on Thursday and wasn’t shy about how how vital this match will be.
“This game is very important for us. We have to keep the three points at home and continue climbing in the standings. At this stage of the season winning matches, especially at home, is essential. We’re playing well at home and we hope to get the points. It’s hard for us to score goals, but we are creating a lot of opportunities. We’ve had enough time to prepare for the next game. We’re fine. After losing a match the best thing is to play again as soon as possible.”
Athletic have won three of the last five meetings with Espanyol at San Mamés, but Garitano doesn’t care about the past. He recognizes that the Catalans are a good team and Athletic will have to be at their best to get a good result.
“I don’t pay much attention to statistics. Espanyol is a good team. They have gone five games without losing so we have to play a good game to beat them. We will both be looking to win and three points would mean a quality jump in the table. They have Melendo and Granero who are good with the ball, they close down well, and defend with many players.”
Once again Athletic will be without Ander Capa who is suffering from a strained hamstring, as well as Aritz Aduriz and Iñigo Lekue who are also injured. Garitano set the expectation that every team has players missing and that other will have to step up for Athletic when called on.
“Every team has injuries and we have to replace those players. Aduriz is crazy about coming back, although for a short period of time he will still be unavailable. We have confidence in the players who can play. Espanyol will be without their top scorer and so are we. I don’t know who will start for them but they do have Ferreyra and Wu Lei who is very good. We don’t have a specific goalscorer right now so we have to replace that hunger for goal and seek for ways for everyone to contribute goals.”
Capa’s injury does put Athletic in a potentially dangerous situation. Oscar De Marcos is one booking away from suspension, as are Iñigo Martinez, Yeray, and Unai Nuñez. Iker Muniain would also be forced to serve a suspension is caution, although Garitano isn’t worried about protecting the players. Right now the important thing is taking it one game at a time.
“Ander Capa is injured and the three center-backs and De Marcos all have four cards, but I’m not going to protect them. This is a very important game for us and we have to face it like this. We have to mold the players we have right now and get the most out of them. Some have important roles and others help in different ways. I see Kenan ready to play the full 90 minutes. He’s well physically and if he hasn’t played more it’s been my decision. He came to us in very good shape.”
One big topic of discussion recently has been the roles of Iker Muniain and Raúl García. Both are at their best when playing in the midfield, however Garitano believes that having them on the field together will also bring good results.
“Raúl García and Muniain can play together. Raúl is better in the middle and so is Iker, but we don’t have to play one on top of the other and Iker has played a lot of games on the wing. He did very well there against Eibar. They fit together well and Raúl can also adapt to the right wing phenomenally. Since Kodro has arrived Guruzeta hasn’t played. We think it’s good for him to have minutes and from time to time he can play with Bilbao Athletic.”
A victory on Friday night would be monumental for Athletic as it could see the team climb into a tie for 7th place. That being said, dropping points would also see the Lions remain in the middle of the table. While fans may be looking to the future and setting new goals that isn’t the case for Garitano. “The goal hasn’t changed since I took over the team” he stated. “The goal has always been to win our next game.”