Gaizka Garitano Wary Of Alavés’s Strong Defense Ahead Of Sunday’s Basque Derby
Athletic have had an exciting start to the season with wins over Barcelona and Real Sociedad. A victory against Alavés on Sunday could even send the Lions to the top of the table, but Gaizka Garitano isn’t taking anything for granted. In Saturday’s pregame press conference the manager noted that Athletic will be facing a different style of football and that it won’t be easy to create chances.
“Alavés close down well in defense and it is very difficult to create chances. In 13 games, counting the preseason, nobody has scored more than one goal against them. That speaks well of their defensive organization. Alavés are not the same as Real and Barcelona. These two have very similar styles and Alavés is different. They are a team that forces you to do different things because they won’t give us the same options as we’ve had in other matches. They also have very physical players.”
Garitano went on to confirm that the team will continue to play with a high line of pressure, though he’s also aware that Alavés like to use long balls which could expose spacing. That being said, the manager has prepared the players for the challenge and says that the two teams have a good understanding of each other’s tendencies.
“We always want to play with a high pressure and try to play in the opposite field as much as possible. It’s not easy because they play very long balls and there isn’t as much to press against. It becomes more difficult to steal the ball high up the field. You have to be attentive to the counterattack and set pieces because they have tall players. We know each other well.”
Much has been made of Athletic’s struggles to create chances, but Garitano believes that the issue is finishing in front of goal. The manager openly explained that the team has had the same problem for years and that they have to improve moving forward.
“We had many chances in Mallorca. The important thing is to take them well and that’s how we are going to score more goals. We don’t have goalscorers because scoring goals was sometimes an issue with other coaches. We lack goals from defenders, midfielders, and wingers. It’s not something from just these last eight months, but for years. It’s something that must be improved.”
When asked if Asier Villalibre will be given chances to play before the transfer window opens back up in January, Garitano immediately responded by saying that he’s only focused on the next match. With three games in six days other players will have opportunities, but the Mister refused to discuss specifics.
“I’m thinking about tomorrow. We will try to put the best eleven on the field because this is a very important game. I don’t even know if I will be here in December. You have to be attentive in football. Every day you examine yourself in football. I’m happy to make a place for players because there are three games in six days and we will see new players on the field throughout the week.”
Athletic are unbeaten through the opening four matches of the season. Garitano has turned the Zurigorri into one of the best teams in all of La Liga but says that they haven’t achieved anything yet. Athletic will continue taking it one game at a time to keep the focus in the right place.
“So far, the team is feeling very good but are only four games in so we can’t think we’ve accomplished anything. The team has been fine but that doesn’t guarantee that we will do well tomorrow. We are up far, but until 15 games are played the table shows very little.”
The Basques will still be without Oscar De Marcos who is recovering from an ankle injury as well as Mikel San José. “Mikel has had discomfort in his back and will stop for a few days because he’s suffering enough”, Garitano explained. “We don’t want to rush Oscar so that he can recover.” Depth will be vitally important over the next week as Athletic look to keep pace at the top of the La Liga table.