Gaizka Garitano “We Hope To Break The Streak Against Atlético”
Gaizka Garitano never wants things to be easy for Athletic. On Saturday the Lions will welcome Atlético Madrid to San Mamés and the manager made it clear that he hopes to face the best that Atléti has to offer. During Friday’s pregame press conference Garitano praised Los Colchoneros and stated that he thinks they will be looking to respond in a big way after being eliminated from the Champions League earlier in the week.
“We hope for the best. They rarely fail and that’s why they are one of the best teams in the world. They didn’t have the luck of beating Juventus and they will come to play a great match and beat us. They have great structure, they’re strong and organized with good players. Atlético Madrid have everything and they are fighting in the league with Barcelona and Real Madrid. They are coming off of a defeat and that will make them stronger, not the other way around.”
The Mister understands that Atlético boasts the strongest defense in La Liga, but they also have dangerous forwards. Even without a few key players they will still field a very strong lineup. Even so, Garitano is full of optimism and believes that Athletic can win for the first since 2013.
“Atlético have the best defense in the league. It’s difficult to score against them. They also have Costa, Greizmann, Morata, Correa, and others who can score at any time. Their main players will be on the field. We all have injuries, but that won’t influence them. They will have a very competitive team. I’m optimistic. We’re capable of a great game. Athletic haven’t won much against Atlético, but neither has anyone else. We hope to break the streak.”
No matter the opponent, Saturday’s match is vitally important for Athletic. Three points would put the Lions back into the heart of the race for Europe, while anything else will keep them in the middle of the table. Garitano says the Basques will look to play a high line and create as many scoring chances as possible.
“This game is very important for us. We are playing at home and we will fight for the three points. It will be important to get ahead on the scoreboard early. That’s our goal and we will try to do it. We always do new things. We try to repeat things that are working with their own variants and nuances. It’s hard not to carry the weight at San Mamés. We press with a high defense and we go for every chance that our opponents give us. We are not going to change our idea. In each game we introduce some small changes and in each game we adapt our style of football. Our style is to work and attack, to create chances and create danger.”
For the first time this season Garitano had every player available for training on Friday. Ander Capa returned after dealing with a hamstring strain and Iñigo Lekue has been called up to the squad for the first time this year.
“Every player was in training today. Ander Capa has returned today, but it’s still too soon for him to play. Iñigo Lekue has come back into the team because Capa is unavailable. We can mold players in other positions when there is a need, but if something happens to De Marcos we don’t have anyone else who is natural there. I think Iñigo can help us.”
In closing, Garitano took a moment to praise Iker Muniain and Iñigo Martinez who were both called up to the Spain National Team. For Muniain, this is the first time he will play internationally in 7 years and the Mister said that it was fully deserved.
“I’m happy for Muniain and Martinez being called up for Spain. It’s a good sign. They stand out and are doing things well. Based on the last few years and the performances he’s given, of course Muniain deserves it. He’s in the best moment of his career. He’s doing very well. He’s involved in the attack, has that spark, and he’s taking on defenders. It’s well deserved because he’s been playing well for several weeks.”
Athletic have yet to lose a league game at home this season under Garitano. The Lions have been in fine form at the Cathedral and the fans have created amazing atmospheres to support their team. That streak will be put on the line Saturday against an angry Atlético team who want to rebound from an embarrassing loss to Juventus. It won’t be easy, but Athletic are ready for a fight.