Gaizka Garitano “We Have Europe At Stake And We Must Equal Their Motivation And Desire”
No one thought back in December that Athletic would be in this position. With just three games left to play the Lions have a three-point lead over 7th place heading into Sunday’s trip to Real Valladolid and everything left to play for. A win would be another massive step towards qualifying for Europe and Gaizka Garitano made it clear during Saturday’s press conference that Valladolid need the points just as badly.
“We will meet an opponent that handles the ball well and has quality players. At key moments of the season they have been unlucky, but Sergio has done a great job since last season. Being in that position you have anxiety, but also know that you have to win. We are going to face a team that needs points, but we are in the same situation. We have Europe at stake and we must equal their motivation and desire. We are finishing the season strong and fit and we will try to finish as best as possible.”
It’s been a crazy year for La Liga. The top teams have lost to smaller clubs more often than has normally been the case and there is still a serious battle raging around the relegation zone and Europe. Garitano knows that taking all three points is never easy.
“We are seeing that the teams at the bottom of the table are beating those at the top. With so much at stake, it’s difficult to see the difference in points. They are playing to continue in the Primera and we are playing for Europe. Every team is good and it’s difficult to beat anyone. This match will be complicated but are also a complicated team to play against.”
Thankfully, Athletic have seen several key players return from injuries this week which leaves Garitano with nearly a full squad to choose from. Of course, this also means that other players will be left out which was the case for Markel Susaeta, Ander Iturraspe, and Mikel Rico. The Mister was quick to praise the two midfielders who will be leaving the club this summer.
“Iturraspe and Rico are two players who have given a lot to the club and their behavior has been phenomenal. They are two exemplary players and we are sorry that they will not continue and that cycle will be over, but it’s the law of life. Other young players will come. Nothing is different from what Athletic has been over the years. I can’t call everyone, although I would love to be able to do that.”
When Garitano took over the team his only goal was to pull the team out of the relegation zone. That was achieved several weeks ago. “We now have an objective that was practically impossible”, said the manager. “We have to try to win in Valladolid to get closer to those top positions, but now we aren’t thinking about where we used to be. We want to go to Europe.”