Gaizka Garitano “We Will Play Our Game At San Mamés”
Athletic have been in good form over the past two games, picking up a dominant 3-0 win over Espanyol followed by an impressive draw with Villarreal. Now, with the international break just around the corner, the Lions will host Levante at San Mamés where a win could lift the Basques into the European zone of the table before the two-week stoppage.
“If you relax in the Primera you lose,” Garitano said firmly during Saturday’s press conference. “They have a good team. None of us have relaxed and we will try to play our game at home where have been strong. They’re dangerous, they have beaten Barcelona and Real by doing things well. The result will depend more on us and that we do the right things.
Both teams currently sit on 17 points, although Athletic have a higher goal difference. Garitano isn’t taking the game lightly at all and was quick to point out that Levante have played well against the Basques in recent meetings.
“Last year they scored two goals at San Mamés and three in the previous game. When you have players who can score from anywhere like Bardhi or Campaña it makes you more dangerous. They have speed as well which they showed against Barcelona. They have quality and offensive ability which must be respected. We must always be alert and try to score early to hurt them like the last game at home.”
Last week’s draw against Villarreal was seen as a very good result considering the fact that the Yellow Submarine had scored 17 goals in 5 games at home. However, Garitano explained that a win over Levante would be an even better result because it would help Athletic climb the table.
“Winning against Levante would have even greater value than the draw against Villarreal. They have looked very strong so a win would be a good result. After the good victory against Espanyol, this would be the third positive result and put us higher in the table. It’s not easy to win 3-0 because these results aren’t common today. There’s greater equality, more than ever. The standings are tight, just a few points separate most teams.”
Athletic are dedicated to their style of football and will look to impose themselves against Levante on Sunday. Garitano warned that the visitors have several threats going forward, but is confident that Athletic’s high pressure can make the difference at San Mamés.
“We will play our game at San Mamés, with a high pressure and allowing few chances. We have to be careful to not make mistakes because they have good strikers with Morales, Mayoral, Roger, and Sergio León. We have to be strong in attack and direct with high pace. Levante have good players from midfield and up and they make a difference in every game. They play well, they play fast, and they create chances.”
The match against Levante will be Athletic’s second straight game scheduled at 2:00pm on a Sunday, but it won’t be the last. As of now, the Basques will play five straight games at this time slot which is seen by many as the worst time for fans to be able to attend fixtures.
“It’s quite unfair,” Garitano answered when asked about the situation. “There are five games in a row at the worst time and I don’t see this as normal. You have to accept it, but it should be better distributed. It’s the worst time for fans, who have to eat, and the worst time for a game. Five weeks in a row doesn’t make any sense. One match, maybe two or three, but five.”
Garitano was then asked if Athletic have made any appeals to La Liga about fixing the schedules. The manager didn’t provide an answer, but once again shared his displeasure with how these fixtures have been planned.
“They make the schedules. It hurts us because it goes against the interests of the fans who come to San Mamés. We have to accept it, but it’s something that goes against Athletic. Sure, it disrupts our work plan but more importantly it hurts the fans who want to go to San Mamés. It’s the worst time and totally unfair. This has never happened before. It hurts us, it’s not good for anyone.”
Athletic sit just three points off of 6th place and could rise several spots in the La Liga table with a win over Levante. The players are determined to take the three points at San Mamés, which would give the team 20 on the season, before going into the international break. Like every game in La Liga this season, it will be a challenge, but the Lions have been very strong at home this season and are confident in their style of football.