Gaizka Garitano “We Prepare For Each Game To Win”
Athletic have spent the week preparing for Saturday’s Copa del Rey match in what will be a very special Bizkaia Derby against Sestao River. The two Basque clubs haven’t met in an official match in over three decades where Athletic eliminated River from the cup 1-0 on aggregate. This time there will be only one game to determine who will advance and Gaizka Garitano says the Lions are excited to take the field.
“Before a game you are always looking forward to it and we are confident,” he said to begin Friday’s press conference. “It’s a beautiful competition. I have already said that I like this format very much, although it makes things more difficult for teams in the higher divisions. It’s more authentic.”
Garitano understands the significance of this fixture, but says that won’t distract Athletic from their goal of winning and advancing to the next round. “It will be a very nice derby for the Bizkaia fans. There will be a good atmosphere. These games are nice to play and we are excited to go there. We prepare for each game to win. With an entire week to prepare for this like a league match it does influence decisions because there isn’t a game two days before or after.”
Garitano’s father played for Sestao River which makes Saturday’s derby even more special. The Mister knows the fans will create a great atmosphere and River will give everything to shock the Zurigorri.
“I spent a lot of time as Las Llanas as a child with my Aita who played there. I lived that field. It was one of the better fields that had the most fans. I’m very happy to return. Surely there will be a festive atmosphere and we will try to advance. There were already some surprises in the first round. We know that playing a single game gives the home team more hope to win.”
Like the previous round where Athletic defeated Intercity, Garitano says the Lions have a duty to advance. That being said, the manager isn’t blind to the fact that a number of teams were surprisingly eliminated in the first round.
“We are a Primera team and, of course, we have the obligation to advance. We have to do things well and take the game seriously. We’ve already seen that many from the Segunda were eliminated in the previous round, as well as Alavés, and others were taken to extra time. In the end, that makes you have the maximum level of respect for these types of matches.”
Garitano was in attendance for River’s match against Lagun Onak last weekend as he took the time to scout Athletic’s upcoming opponents. The manager was impressed with what he saw and warns that River aren’t to be taken lightly.
“River are having a great season. They are at the top with Portugalete and are doing things very well. They always take the initiative and are an offensive team. River aren’t a typical team from the Tercera with a direct style of play. Instead they build play well by combining passes, but that doesn’t mean that having a strategy can’t be decisive. Surely they will make things difficult for us.”
Athletic will also face the challenge of playing on artificial grass at Las Llanas, but Garitano isn’t concerned. “When the grass is bad it’s bad for both teams,” he responded when asked about the field. “This is the cup format and you have to adapt to every situation. If the artificial grass is bad we will have no complaints. It will not be an excuse.”
In conclusion, Garitano explained that he will not be announcing the squad list tomorrow. “We will give the call on Saturday morning because some players have discomfort or fevers so we will decide what to do after this afternoon’s session.” Regardless of which players are rested or summoned, Athletic will be expected to return from Las Llanas with a victory and book their place in the next round.