Gaizka Garitano “I Never Feel Like We Are Favorites”
Athletic are unbeaten through the opening six games of the season and will look to extend that streak on Saturday when they host Valencia at San Mamés. The Lions have won all three matches at home this year, all against strong opponents, and Valencia will prove to be yet another massive test. Gaizka Garitano rejected the idea that Athletic are favorites in Friday’s press conference and noted that Valencia have changed some things under new coach Albert Celades.
“I never feel like we are favorites, especially against a team that is playing in the Champions League, but we can always win at San Mamés no matter who the favorite is. It’s the beginning of the season. They’ve had a change of coach and I imagine it will take them a bit to settle into the ideas of the new coach. We are going to prepare for the game knowing that some things have changed with a new coach and that is important to us.”
Los Che have conceded 11 goals so far this season, more than any other clubs in La Liga, though Garitano pointed out that their recent Champions League win over Chelsea showed they can be strong defensively. Winning this game will be important to both teams and Athletic must avoid mistakes in order to take all three points.
“Valencia have conceded goals in league games, but for me their match in London last week says a lot and they didn’t concede a goal. They played a very good match defensively. It’s up to us to do a good job and play our football to win. They need to win and we do too. Everyone needs to win in a competition as urgent as La Liga. You have to win every day. We always have that requirement and so does a team like Valencia.”
Garitano was quick to point out that Valencia have one of the strongest squads in Spain and highlighted their plethora of attacking talent. Athletic have been the best defensive team in La Liga this season and will have to be at their best to avoid conceding their first goal at home.
“Because of the players they have, because they are in the Champions League, they have one of the best squads in La Liga without a doubt. Valencia have many players who score, many options from the midfield forward with Maxi, Rodrigo, Cheryshev, Parejo, and others. They have 8 or 9 players who can score at any time and very few teams have that many which is why they score a lot of goals.”
Saturday’s match with be Athletic’s third game in six days which is never easy. “Mikel San José has been training and at least feels comfortable”, Garitano answered when asked about the midfielder’s ongoing back issue. “He is still suffering. De Marcos is already back to training normally with everyone. Aduriz has also trained normally. We will see how those who have played more this week are doing with their blows and overloads.”
Garitano refused to discuss what the lineup will look like, stating that he will have to assess the players after such an intense week. Physical limitations will affect the selection and the Mister pointed out that being the better side after the hour mark could be decide the outcome.
“We won’t give the changes in advance. We have a defined way of playing and every player is in line. This week we were forced to make four or five changes and we had confidence in them. The physical issues influence decisions when it’s the third game in a week. Being strong from the 60th minute to the 90th minute is really important. That last half hour can decide a result.”
Winning Saturday’s match would see Athletic climb back to the top of the La Liga table. It’s not going to be an easy game but the Basques have been dominant at home this season with wins over Barcelona, Real Sociedad, and Alavés. Another challenge awaits for the ferocious Lions.