Yeray “We Concede Few Goals And Teams Have A Hard Time Creating Chances Against Us”
Athletic have established themselves as one of the best defensive teams in all of Europe since Gaizka Garitano took over as manager and Yeray has played a big role in the success. Still just 24 years old, the Lezama product is a top level center-back in La Liga and becoming a leader on and off the field. Yeray had the opportunity to speak to the media following training on Wednesday and shared that he believes the Lions can challenge for Europe.
“If the two defeats didn’t happen we would be in the top three and that would be very big for the club. They were two tough losses but we have to be positive because what is coming can be very exciting. We will continue to fight to be higher in the table because our goal is to finish in the top six and why can’t we qualify for the Champions League. We will fight until the end.”
It’s been a tale of two teams so far this season. For the most part Athletic have been dominant at home but have yet to win a game on the road. Yeray pointed out that it’s difficult for any team to win games away from home and made it clear that the special atmosphere at San Mamés has played a big role in the club’s success.
“We haven’t been the same away from home, but Barcelona didn’t play their best at San Mamés. We try to do what the coach tells us but it doesn’t always happen. Playing at home gives us a boost because it’s like having an extra player. We’ve only suffered one defeat away from home, but it’s also true that we haven’t achieved a victory.”
Naturally, the Athletic players are angry at having lost two straight games, but have already put the defeats behind them. The team is moving on and looking ahead to the upcoming game against Real Valladolid with full knowledge that it won’t be an easy fixture.
“You get frustrated in any game when things don’t go well and the referee makes you a little crazy. We’ve already forgotten about it the loses and are looking to the next match. Any team you face is a strong team. The game will be at San Mamés but it won’t be easy. Last year we gave them a point. This time I hope to get all three points and catch that connection again with the fans and everyone.”
A lot has been made of Athletic’s style of play. The Lions have put a heavy emphasis on defense and make it hard for opponents to create scoring chances. Yeray was sure to praise the effort of the entire team for the success, saying that it takes all eleven players to defend well.
“Every team has a style. We want to assume the least possible risk and move up the field with few touches, but that can also be done by playing a good game. We concede few goals and teams have a hard time creating chances against us, but it’s not just because of the defenders. Everyone works to defend together. Dani García helps us a lot and it takes the striker all the way to the goalkeeper to do well.”
Yeray enjoys playing in the Athletic system and has been one of the best defenders in Spain over the last few years. The 24-year-old was asked to explain the different strengths of the center-backs in the squad and shared that everyone knows Unai Nuñez is a top player despite not having as many chances lately.
“I feel very comfortable in the system and I’m playing well. Every season, every game, I try to do my best. I anticipate more, Iñigo has more temper and physicality, Unai can also anticipate and he’s very strong. Unai already experienced this last year and it’s not easy. It’s difficult for anyone but you have to know how to live it. We see every day during training that he’s a great player.”
Despite being a key player for the Zurigorri, Yeray isn’t taking anything for granted. He knows that he must continue working in order to keep his place in the team because there are four players vying for two spots in the lineup every week.
“I work every day to be in the lineup and the day I’m removed I will continue working. We have four center-backs, including Vivian, who are at a very high level. We have to prove ourselves in every game and I think everyone has shown their quality when given the chance. You have to accept the chances you are given.”
In closing, Yeray was asked about being left out of the Spain squad despite making the pre-list but admitted that he doesn’t really pay that much attention to it. Being called up to the Selection would be a big honor, but the most important thing to the Lezama graduate is doing his best for Athletic each game.
“I was in the pre-list the majority of the time last year and it wasn’t my turn to be called. Every coach has his own ideas and calls those that he believes are best. If I’m not called it’s not because the coach doesn’t like me or because I’m not doing my best. If I’m called, great, but I don’t really look for it because my job is to do well with Athletic. I still have a lot to learn and I don’t see myself far away, but it’s true that it’s hard to overtake the veterans.”
The international break will give Athletic plenty of time to prepare for the upcoming match against Real Valladolid. After two straight losses the Lions are desperate to pick up three points and continue fighting for the top spots in the La Liga table. Playing at San Mamés will provide an extra boost but players like Yeray must be at their best for the Basques to secure an important victory.