Gaizka Garitano “My Expectations Are Always To Win The Next Game”
The international break was a time of reflection for Athletic Club. After an exciting start to the season the Lions lost their last two games and spent the past two weeks working to improve problem areas. The team is eager to quickly put an end to their winless streak and will have that opportunity when Real Valladolid visit San Mamés on Sunday. The Pucela haven’t won in Bilbao since 2003, but Gaizka Garitano isn’t taking anything for granted.
“Real Valladolid are a team that feels more comfortable on the road than at home”, the manager began during Saturday’s pregame press conference. Valladolid have earned 7 of their 10 points this season away from home. “They play very well in these situations and that makes them dangerous. Valladolid have grown a lot and that’s why they’ve gotten good results away from home.”
While analyzing Sunday’s opponents, Garitano highlighted the fact that Real Valladolid are strong defensively but also have the quality to create problems in attack. The Pucela beat Athletic in Valladolid last season and the Mister recognizes that Sunday’s match will be another difficult fixture.
“They have players who are technically good, like Míchel and Óscar Plano, and do things very well on the wings. They have skilled players and it’s hard to create chances against them, we have to remember that they beat us last year. They close down space and put 10 players behind the ball. Going forward they have upped and quality, they know how to play the ball.”
Turning the attention back to Athletic, Garitano confirmed that both Ibai Gómez and Yuri Berchiche will miss the match. The pair are still recovering from injuries and haven’t been cleared to play at this point.
“Ibai injured his adductor last week. I don’t think it’s serious, but he hasn’t trained all week. Yuri has been working on his own. He’s doing more in training but isn’t able to compete yet. The injury is still fresh. He won’t lose share because the injury still allows him to train, but not compete. Next week he will return to the group little by little and we will see if he’s available then.”
Despite the absences, the Mister has full confidence in every single player in the squad. No matter who starts on Sunday the expectations will be the same and Garitano made it clear that having both young players and veterans in the team is the best recipe for success.
“I trust every player, those who start and those who don’t. Everyone has to be prepared to play. We study for every game and we plat those that we see best. I’m happy with everyone, the entire group, because they work well and everyone has to demand more. You also have to realize what happens in the Segunda B and the Primera. We have Sancet, Larrazabal, and Unai Simón who have all played. That connection between youth and veterans has to take us forward like it has always done with Athletic.”
Like Real Valladolid, Athletic have struggled to score goals this season. The Lions have found it difficult to create chances in the final third and, even when they do, finishing has also been an issue. The manager explained that this was a major focus in training during the break and fans will be hoping to see the fruits of labor at San Mamés.
“It’s clear that we can improve our offensive performance and that is an area where we have been working. We want to be better in attacking movements, crosses, running into the box, and everything we do in the final third where we have struggled lately. These last 15 days have been good for us to address these areas and we will see tomorrow if we are lucky enough to score.”
No matter the opponent, Garitano expects to win every game. The Mister has made it the focus of the team to take it one match at a time and says that’s the only goal that they can set in football. Sunday’s fixture will be another opportunity for three points.
“I’m optimistic. My expectations are always to win the next game, it’s the only goal you can have in football. We have trained well, we know it will be difficult but it’s always difficult to win. We are a very competitive team and the most ambitious. The goal remains the same as always, we want to win every match and tomorrow that’s what we will try to do.”
History suggests that Athletic will be favored over Real Valladolid and Garitano shared that the Lions know what they must do to win. “We will try to impose ourselves because they defensive well”, he explained. “It will be important to have patience in attack and not put ourselves in bad positions when we lose the ball. You have to be careful, but also play our game at home with a high press and trying to attack.” San Mamés has been a fortress for the Basques and could play a pivotal role once again this weekend.