Gaizka Garitano “We Know The Difficulty And We See It As An Opportunity”
Gaizka Garitano will face his biggest test as Athletic manager when the Lions travel to the Santiago Bernabéu on Sunday. Several starters are unavailable due to injuries and the Mister will have to make some difficult decisions. He won’t use it as a excuse, however, which is exactly what he told reporters during Saturday’s pregame press conference.
“There are quite a few players who are unavailable who have been starters. We know that we will have them again at some point. It’s not an excuse, I trust every player. This is a key point because the casualties will have a lot of importance, but I trust those who haven’t played as much. Now is the time to see everyone contribute. I’m calm because I can still only field 11 players and make 3 changes.”
With Dani García sidelined with a muscle injury Garitano has called up both Mikel Rico and Unai López. He praised both midfielders and explained that they haven’t had regular minutes due to so much competition in the squad.
“I am a big admirer of Mikel Rico. I have an incredible appreciation for him, in all respects. He had a long injury that prevented him from having regularity and it stopped him. I can say the same about Unai López. He’s a great kid and a good player. I’m calm when he’s on the field. It’s also a matter of having many players in one position. He hasn’t had continuity because of others, but I trust them both.”
Going to the Bernabéu always brings excitement. Athletic haven’t won there in 14 years and are eager to change that on Sunday. It’s the hardest game left on the schedule and the Zurigorri need a good result to continue fighting for Europe.
“There is a lot of hope. When you visit Real Madrid and Barcelona the statistics usually aren’t good. We haven’t won there in 14 years. That makes you go with more enthusiasm to break that streak. We know that we will be fine. If we have confidence we can take all three points. There are a few games left and we have top positions to close. We see it as an opportunity. We haven’t won at the Bernabéu in 14 years. Of the six games left it’s the most difficult. If we do things well we will have a chance to win. We will have to do things perfectly and hope they aren’t at their best. You can decide the game with an individual error or goal.”
Garitano has had all week to plan for the match and wants his team to focus on the things that have already brought good results. If the Lions play their football and are confident in attack the manager believes they can take all three points and end the winless streak in Madrid.
“I’ve emphasized everything: having a good balance, pressing well when we go up, which we usually do, and attacking and defending well. The more you scare them the closer you will be to winning. We have to make the most of our opportunities in attack. They will not be relaxed. They’ve won their last three games at home and press well there. Madrid are strong at home. Although they won’t win the league or Champions League their fans will be with them and are one of the best teams in the world. We know the difficulty, let’s see a good game and we will be closer to winning.”
Real Madrid may not be playing for anything at this point in the season, but their squad is still very expensive and talented. “I give even more value to what Athletic is, Garitano said. “The players that we have here with the philosophy, being 7th in the table and facing one of the best in Spain and the world makes you value even more what is done here. It has a lot of merit.” Qualifying for Europe would be a massive feat for the Zurigorri and to do that they need a big result at the Bernabéu.