Gaizka Garitano “These Games Demand The Same Intensity As A League Game”
Athletic cruised to a 4-0 victory over Sestao River on Saturday to book their place in the next round of the Copa del Rey. Gaizka Garitano fielded a relatively strong lineup at Las Llanas and the Lions had no problems controlling the game against their Bizkaia neighbors. After the match, Garitano shared that the team took the match very seriously and that their quality made the difference.
“These games demand to be taken seriously, to go out with the same intensity as a league game ,which we have done. River did a great job, but logically a Primera team has a higher level and it was reflected in the final. If we have a virtue it’s that we’re good competitors. I knew that the team was going to do well because this is a competition in which we want to move forward.”
Asier Villalibre was one of the stars of the game as he scored two goals to help lead Athletic to victory. Garitano was full of praise for the young striker and explained that the team must continue improving in front of goal.
“Strikers live off of goals and we haven’t scored many. Scoring two the way he did is very good for him. Any of our strikers who are scoring goals is good for us. We moved the ball well which we failed to do in Madrid or Seville. We have to improve in that area and today we were better.”
There was a bit of surprise over how many key players were fielded against River. Garitano didn’t rest as many players as expected, but explained that he didn’t think it was necessary in this situation.
“I’m not much for rotations because we are only playing in two tournaments. We also didn’t play just a few days ago and won’t play again until next weekend. There was no need to change many players and I started the ones that I have seen the best throughout the week.”
The flu hit Athletic hard in the week leading up to the game which also affected Garitano’s decisions. Several players missed the match and a few were in danger of being sidelined but were able to be cleared in time to travel with the team.
“Núñez could have played, but he had a fever yesterday. There was also some doubt with Dani García but he recovered in time. Herrerín was already going to play in goal although Simón and Ezkieta were sick so Ander Iru had to come. Unai has mumps and will not be able to leave home for four or five days. We will see how long his recover takes”
Along with the victory, Athletic also saw the return of Iker Muniain who had missed nearly two months with a hamstring injury. The manager shared that the club was very cautious with the captain’s recovery to ensure that there were no issues down the road.
“He was scheduled to play half an hour and had no problems. Physically he needs to keep adding minutes. We have been cautious and allowed him recover because it’s an injury that could have cost him a lot of time if there was a relapse. We need him because he’s a different player. He’s very, very important for our football.”
Athletic must now wait for the remainder of cup games to be played on Sunday before finding out which team they will face in the Round of 32 later this month. In the meantime, Athletic will start preparing for Sunday’s league match against Celta Vigo which will take place at San Mamés.