Gaizka Garitano “Nobody Said That This Was Going To Be Easy”
Athletic missed a golden opportunity to move 6 points clear in control of 7th place on Sunday when they traveled to take on Real Valladolid. The Lions fell 1-0 and now it will take the final two games of the season to determine whether or not they will qualify for Europe. After the match, manager Gaizka Garitano explained that a top 7 finish is never easy and knows that his team did not play their best.
“Nobody has been ruled out. To get a European place you have to be there until the end. Nobody said that this was going to be easy. In the first 25 minutes they were better and scored a great goal. Then we couldn’t create chances and the ball didn’t want to go in. We leave knowing we played badly. They were able to be better and we suffered when we had the ball because we lost possession a lot and that makes you have to defend perfectly. In the last 15 minutes we were better but the ball didn’t want to go in.”
Despite the defeat, Garitano still recognizes that Athletic control 7th place and will decide their own future. “We have been one of the best teams lately and we have Champions League numbers”, he began. “We are still optimistic because we depend on ourselves. It’s logical that there are other teams close by. We know that we will have competition and that is part of the game.”
There was certainly a bit of surprise when the starting lineup was announced. Raúl García was on the bench, as was Iñigo Martinez who has struggled with an injury over the past few days which was explained by Garitano.
“We wanted to link up more with Iker as the playmaker. We took out physical players and lacked that a bit. We had strong enough players on the field. After conceding an early goal you think about a lot of things, but you can’t rush. We were not as plugged in as we should be in a game like this. Yesterday Iñigo tried to train and is not well. He has an infection in the bone and can’t kick the ball.”
Athletic will have another chance to move one step closer to Europe on Sunday when they host Celta Vigo at San Mamés. A victory will be the only acceptable result with Real Sociedad, Alavés, and Espanyol all just three points behind the Lions and also holding tiebreakers. Athletic have everything left to play for and that makes these last two matches must-win fixtures.