Gaizka Garitano “If You Don’t Do Things Well Sevilla Will Make You Suffer”
Athletic are hoping to kick off the new year with a big win on Friday against Sevilla but know it will be an extremely difficult game. The Lions haven’t won at the Ramón Sánchez Pizjuán in league play since late 2011 and are determined to put an end to that streak. Gaizka Garitano has been busy preparing the team throughout the week and admitted that Athletic could once again field three center-backs.
“We will see,” responded the manager when asked about playing with three defenders against Sevilla. “We have worked during the week and we have that Plan B which we can use in certain circumstances against superior opponents such as Sevilla or Real Madrid. We value it as an option.”
Regardless of the formation, Garitano says that Athletic will try to play their style of football and make things difficult for their hosts. There’s no denying that Sevilla are one of the best teams in La Liga which means the Basques can’t afford to make mistakes.
“We will try to play a good game and win. This year I see them at or near the level of Atlético, Barca, and Real Madrid. They have strong, fast, and, physical players and run more than anyone else in the league. They are a very complete team of mostly internationals which makes them strong. Sevilla defend well at home, it’s not easy to score there. If you don’t do things well they will score goals and make you suffer.”
Athletic’s last trip to Seville ended in heartbreak as the Lions fell 2-0 on the final day of the season and missed out on European qualification. However, Athletic also won at the Ramón Sánchez Pizjuán earlier in the season in the Copa del Rey which gives Garitano confidence that the team can take all three points.
“Going from the relegation zone to the European places was a very long road. We hit the crossbar in the 90th minute in Seville and we had already won a Cup game there. We go with the idea of winning. Why not? The point against Real Madrid has reinforced the team. This is the most complicated stretch of the season with three straight games away from home and facing two clubs in Madrid and Sevilla who will be fighting for La Liga until the end.”
Garitano also confirmed that Iker Muniain and Aritz Aduriz will not be available for the game despite recently returning to training. Athletic have had to make do without the pair for nearly two months now and have still managed to play at a high level.
“Iker is doing very well and has been able to do everything with his teammates. Aduriz is still going in and out, doing a little bit of everything, and his availability will depend on his evolution. They will not play tomorrow nor will Oscar De Marcos. Gaizka Larrazabal will miss the game as well because he’s had a fever.” Oihan Sancet will also be unavailable due to suspension.
Turning the attention away from Friday’s fixture, the manager was asked about the possibility of Unai Núñez leaving this month during the transfer window. “What he wants is to stay ay Athletic,” answered Garitano. “He’s already said it more than once and hopefully the circumstances will arise for him to stay.”
Núñez is unhappy with his limited role at Athletic and has had offers from West Ham and Bayern Munich to leave his boyhood club. Garitano explained that he’s spoken with the young defender and is hopeful that he will choose to stay at San Mamés.
“I talked to him, we usually talk a lot and have done so recently. In the end, we will see what happens this month. He knows that the coaching staff and the club have been wanting to renew for a long time so that he can stay here. He’s an important player for us, a player for the present and future of the club and the it’s in his hands to stay. We’ll see. I hope he stays because we don’t want to lose a player of such value to us.”
Apart from possible departures there’s also been talk of Athletic strengthening the squad in January. Javi Martinez is one name that has been regularly linked with the Zurigorri, though Garitano refused to comment. “We talk and we have meetings, but now we are only focused on the players we have and tomorrow’s match against Sevilla.”
Coming off of an important draw against Real Madrid, Athletic are full of confidence and believe that they can finally put an end to their winless streak in Seville. A victory against Sevilla would see the Basques continue to climb the La Liga table and remain very much in the race for Europe.