Gaizka Garitano “We Have The Challenge Of Breaking Osasuna’s Streak At Home”
Athletic will travel to El Sadar on Sunday for highly-anticipated Basque Derby. The Lions have won five of their last six matches against Osasuna, although Los Rojillos are unbeaten in 31 straight games at home. Manager Gaizka Garitano was well aware of the streak when addressing the media on Saturday and says that Athletic will have to be at their best to get a positive result in Pamplona.
“This is a Derby, a match in which we know there will be a lot of intensity,” Garitano began. “Their fans are going to push them with a good atmosphere. We have the challenge of breaking their streak of good results at home. Regardless of the difficulty of the game, it would be nice to break the run they’ve had.”
Osasuna may be a newly promoted side but Garitano hasn’t been surprised by their success so far this season. “Beyond the good players that they have, Osasuna do things well. They play as a group, as a team, and that’s what makes them dangerous. We are both teams reflected in that aspect. They always come out very strong in the beginning of games.”
Garitano went on to praise the work of Osasuna manager Jagoba Arrasate who has been instrumental in the team’s recent success. “Arrasate has been doing a magnificent job since he arrived at Osasuna,” he said. “The team earned promotion and they have been showing a good level in the Primera. The coaches and players have a good connections. Their results are no accident.”
Turning his attention to Athletic, Garitano once again highlighted the fact that the Lions have to start getting better results in away fixtures. The Zurigorri have been very good in the past three games and Sunday’s trip to El Sadar could be the perfect opportunity to secure the first road win of the campaign.
“The team has been playing well for a long time and we want to continue with those good feelings. It’s true that we’ve left many points away from home. We’ve had some draws but we want better results, we want to win. Many times a draw on the road is good, but sometimes it’s falling short. We would like to continue our winning streak with a victory in Pamplona.”
Although Athletic have yet to win on the road this season Garitano believes the team has played good games as of late. Draws haven’t necessarily been bad results, but the manager is eager to get a victory outside of San Mamés.
“We’ve been doings things well away from home lately, but that victory is missing. The important thing is that we be ourselves, that we are recognized with out way of playing. We were good against Villarreal and Atlético, but there’s a difference in a draw and a win in those games. Let’s see if we can get that first win on the road.”
Beñat and Oscar De Marcos have recently returned to training following ankle injuries and the manager was asked if they will be able to travel to Pamplona. “They are available, although Beñat is coming from a long injury and doesn’t have the necessary training,” Garitano answered. “He’s been with the group for three days and is almost fine. He’s close and if need him he could play.”
Of course, the injury that has everyone concerned is that of Iker Muniain. The captain recently suffered a Grade II hamstring strain and will be sidelined until January. “You have to know that there may be injuries to important players during the season,” said Garitano. “The goal is to replace him and find solution. We will have eleven players on the field emptying themselves.”
Muniain’s absence could be a great opportunity for other players to have important minutes. “When there is an injury someone else takes that place and that’s it,” Garitano said firmly. “Our strength is the depth of the squad. When important players have been missing others have responded. Instead of lamenting the injury we have to look for alternatives. This group is capable of doing it.”
Athletic currently sit sixth in the La Liga table and could climb even higher with a win in Pamplona. However, with the league as tight as ever, anything less may see the Lions drop several places. Every point matters this season and Athletic fully intend to silence El Sadar with an important victory.