Mikel Balenziaga “We Have The Ambition To Win In Vigo”
Coming off of their first loss of the season, Athletic know just how important it will be to win at Balaídos on Sunday. Taking all three points could see the Basques jump several places in the La Liga table but they will have to face the match without Yuri Berchiche. The left-back dislocated his shoulder against Valencia last weekend and Mikel Balenziaga is expected to take his place in the lineup.
“We are in a very good dynamic”, Balenziaga told reporters after training on Thursday. “We’ve have a good start to the season and will go for the three points on Sunday. Beyond the fact that we just lost, we are facing a very difficult game and we know what these games are like. They have players with a lot of quality. We will try to get the three points by playing our best possible and using our weapons. We know that we must do things well to achieve victory. It won’t be easy and even harder if we don’t play well. It will be important to be good defensively and from there we can look to score.”
Athletic have yet to win a game on the road this season, but the team is eager to change that. Balenziaga pointed out that the Lions have played well since Gaizka Garitano took over as manager and that they should still be proud of the campaign to this point.
“Of course there is a desire for the first victory away from home, but winning matches in the Primera is complicated. You have to be aware of that because it doesn’t mean you have less ambition. It’s important to be self-critical about what we do and what we have been achieving since January. I think we are playing well and getting many points. It’s not easy. We’ve still lost games and are scoring few goals, but we are optimistic and positive. We have the ambition to win in Vigo.”
Depending on how other matches go over the weekend, a win could see Athletic near the top of the table going into the international break. The Zurigorri have never lost two consecutive games under Garitano and have no plans of changing that on Sunday.
“We know that this is another opportunity to continue in those positions near the top of the table. We will go with everything. We’ve never lost two straight games under Garitano? Well that speaks to the fact that we are doing things well, that we are a strong team. We will do everything possible to keep that streak going.”
Athletic have won five of their last six visits to Balaídos, including last year which was also their first road win of the season. Balenziaga found it difficult to compare the two campaigns and simply emphasized just how well the team has performed since their last trip to Vigo.
“I have a hard time comparing last year to this one. We came to Balaídos last year in a very uncomfortable situation. We were near the bottom of the table but starting to raise our heads a little. This year we are playing very well. The team is very confident in what we are doing and, like last year, we will go for the three points. We know the path we have to follow.”
Celta Vigo currently sit just one point clear of the relegation zone which is surprising when considering the level of quality in the squad. Balenziaga made it clear that Athletic will be facing a dangerous team no matter what the recent results suggest.
“They may not have started well, but that have important players with a lot of quality. We know what it’s like to play against them. They are a team that can hurt you and they attack more than anything. We will try to catch them in those plays where they are very high. We have to be aware of their forwards.”
Both sides would benefit greatly from a win on Sunday, especially Celta who could create some distance from the relegation zone. Balenziaga isn’t taking anything from granted and highlighted that Celta will make things very dangerous at home. This is a winnable game for the Basques, but it will be far from easy.
“Celta will no doubt see this game as a chance to catch fresh air. If they get three points they will move a bit more clear of the bottom. We have to take advantage of everything so that doesn’t happen, so that they aren’t comfortable. They have dangerous players, especially in attack, which will make the game complicated but so do we and we know what it takes to do well at Balaídos.”
While Mikel Balenziaga will be filling in for Yuri Berchiche, the rest of the lineup could remain unchanged. Oscar De Marcos has also been cleared to play again after missing over a month with an ankle sprain. It will be up to Garitano to get the selection right as anything less than a win at Balaídos could see Athletic go into the international break with several questions and doubts.