Gaizka Garitano “We Have The Chance To Qualify For Europe And We Believe That We Can Do It”
Gaizka Garitano has done the unthinkable. When he took over as the manager of Athletic back in December the only goal was to escape the relegation zone. Not only has that been accomplished, the Lions are now in a position to qualify for Europe. Speaking to the media ahead of Sunday’s match against Celta Vigo, the Mister said that he wants to end the season in the best possible way.
“In all aspects, this is the last home game. We know what is at stake. After coming from very low in the table we now have the chance to qualify for Europe and we believe that we can do it. We will try to play a good match and win. We hope to enjoy the game and the farewell of the players that are closing their careers at the club. We have had a great season, especially at home. We hope to finish it by winning this match. This team has a lot of quality and we make things difficult for every opponent.”
Athletic have been preparing for the match all week, but know it won’t be easy. Celta also have a lot to play for and Garitano recognizes that there has been parity throughout the league all season. Winning isn’t easy and everything comes down to these last two matches.
“The idea is always to score a goal at the beginning. That’s what we’re looking for, but it’s not always possible. We’ll try to play a good game from start to finish. It will be a long and even match because both teams are playing for a lot. There has been a lot of equality in the league and everything will be decided at the end. You also have to keep in mind that your opponent is playing for something too. Nobody wins easily in this league.”
Garitano knows that the key to success will be slowing down Iago Aspas. The striker has scored 17 goals this season and has been integral to Celta’s resurgence over the past few weeks. That being said, the manager sees plenty of quality throughout the Celta squad and knows that Athletic must be at their best to take all three points at San Mamés.
“We’ve studied Iago Aspas and we know what he does, but not only him. Celta is the team with the most international players behind Real Madrid and Barcelona. That says a lot about their team. We will try to exploit their weaknesses, but this is a team to be aware of. It also says a lot about our team that we are fighting for Europe. It will be difficult. Celta are a team of very high quality, along with Villarreal, that wasn’t expected to be where they are right now. They have improved lately, but are still playing for salvation and they will make it difficult.”
Sunday’s match will be special. Markel Susaeta, Ander Iturraspe, and Mikel Rico will all be saying goodbye to Athletic before leaving the club this summer and Garitano stated that the trio have handled their situations in a respectable way. The club is also waiting for a decision from Aritz Aduriz who has a renewal offer on the table.
“We would have liked for Markel to continue. I’ve seen him in recent months in his behavior has been a 10 like that of Itu and Rico who will also leave. For months we have spoken with the players and everyone knows what their situation is. Weeks ago I told Rico and Iturraspe that we didn’t have plans to renew them, and I told Markel and Aduriz that I wanted them to continue.”
With just two games remaining Athletic holds a 3 point lead over three other teams for the last European spot in the table. Those three teams all hold tiebreakers over Athletic which means that the Lions can’t afford to drop points. “I think about winning”, Garitano said when asked about the situation. “I don’t usually look at others, especially when we are ahead.” Athletic will control their own destiny.