Gaizka Garitano “Winning Won’t Happen Just Because We Defend Well”
Athletic will travel to Seville tomorrow looking for their fourth straight win in league play. However, Real Betis have won their last two games and are also hoping to build on impressive results. Gaizka Garitano addressed the media ahead of Saturday’s training session and warned that Betis will be a difficult opponent, though he is confident that Athletic can win if they play their football.
“We face Betis at their best moment of the season. They’ve won the last two games and are a strong team at home. Betis have quality players on an individual level who can chance the game at any moment. They have players with a lot of technical ability, top players, so we have to play a good game to win.”
After struggling to score goals earlier in the season Athletic have significantly improved over the past several weeks. That being said, Garitano made it clear that the Basques will have to be efficient in front of goal in order to beat Betis because they can’t rely on defending alone.
“We have to score a goal. In Pamplona we scored two, the same with Granada, three against Espanyol, and two against Levante. We are creating chances and winning there won’t happen just because we defend well. Betis have scored in their last 22 home games. They create chances and play an attacking style with top players. We have to look for our goal and try to hurt them.”
Athletic are currently in the battle for Champions League qualification and says that the team must keep winning to stay in this position. Consistency is hard to come by in La Liga but the manager sees Sunday’s match as yet another important opportunity.
“We have to try to win and have 29 points instead of 26, that’s what we are focused on. When I look up above us I see few teams and some are unreachable. To stay here you have to win continuously and that is complicated for a team like ours in Primera, but we must try. Now we have another opportunity tomorrow.”
Despite missing Friday’s training session Ander Capa is expected to travel with the team. “Capa has had discomfort but aims to play tomorrow,” explained Garitano. “We don’t have many options because of the players missing. We will try to find a solution for Raúl, Muniain, and Aduriz who are ones that usually play in attack. When there have been absences the strength of the group has been shown. The strength of the group is greater than any individual.”
Two weeks ago Athletic finally secured their first win away from home this season. Instead of being relieved and relaxing, Garitano says the team must build on the result with another victory because there will be even more difficult matches ahead.
“We broke that barrier of not winning away from home. I hope it doesn’t translate into relaxation because we go to another difficult field tomorrow. You have to play to win to actually win games. The team has been doing things well away from home for many weeks. We were able to win in Pamplona and we have a difficult schedule now with this trip to Betis, one of the most difficult, and then Real Madrid and Sevilla. If we are not at a high level it will be difficult to get something out of it.”
In closing, Garitano was asked about Athletic’s position in the table and confidently said that he isn’t surprised. The Zurigorri have the fourth-most points in the league since Garitano’s arrival and the Mister says that the team must continue playing to win games.
“I don’t know if it’s surprising. It’s true that in the last 39 games in the league we only have Barcelona, Real Madrid, and Atlético above us. They are practically inaccessible. One could say we are the best in the league apart from those three. Keeping that level at all times is complicated, although there is always opportunity and desire. If we win we will stay where we are and that’s what we will look for, to win there.”
Real Betis have been one of the best attacking sides in Spain over the last few weeks and will be a good test for Athletic’s impressive defense. However, the Basques are in excellent form at the moment and, even with a number of injuries, have the quality and confidence to return to Bilbao with a victory and all three points.