Asier Villalibre “We Are Athletic And We Can Beat Anyone At San Mamés”
The past few weeks have been an exciting time for Asier Villalibre who is starting to gain more prominence in the Athletic first team. Following a brace in the Cup win over Sestao River, the 22-year-old scored his first league goal over the weekend in a 1-1 draw with Espanyol. On Tuesday night, Villalibre scored the winning penalty in a shootout against Tenerife and figures to have even more chances moving forward.
“I’m having more minutes and I’m happy,” the striker said during Friday’s press conference. “I’m trying to train well to earn more minutes. I’m happy and I must continue like this. These are the moment that I expected. I’ve been working as hard as my first day here and that’s how I will continue. I’ve taken advantage of my chances and I’ve been lucky. The moments can change quickly in football.”
Villalibre went on to admit that he was nervous before taking the last penalty against Tenerife, but knew it was important to remain calm. He was also excited to score his first league goal and was unable to put the emotion into words.
“I was nervous because if I scored we would win. I knew I had to take it and I tried to have a cool head. I was very excited to score my first goal. Even when you haven’t scored for a long time it still gives you a lot of satisfaction. It’s a rush of adrenaline and very difficult to describe. It’s like a high, like you’re exploding. I can’t sleep after scoring because I’m excited. Right now I’m gaining confidence little by little.”
Earlier in the season Villalibre rarely saw the field and was often left out of the squad entirely. “There are always bad times, not only in football but also in life,” he said looking back. “I was thinking about it every day and trying to train well without that pressure. Now I’m not thinking about it every day.”
Winning the penalty shootout against Tenerife sent Athletic through to the Copa del Rey quarterfinals where they will host Barcelona at San Mamés next week. Although it will be a very difficult match, Villalibre says playing at home gives Athletic a major advantage.
“We are happy with the draw because we will play at San Mamés and that’s a point in our favor. It’s exciting to play in front of our fans. Knowing that we will play at home is the most important thing and having the fans on our side with the support of San Mamés is important as well.”
Barcelona may be the favorites to win and advance, but that doesn’t bother Villalibre. “We are Athletic and we can beat anyone at San Mamés,” he said confidently. “Surely there is hope and confidence. What stands out the most about Barcelona is the quality of players that they have, but we are able to beat them.Aduriz is a great player. I’m not thinking about those comparisons but I’m having good minutes and learning from him.”
Before Athletic face the challenge of eliminating Barcelona, the Basques will first host Getafe at San Mamés on Sunday. The Zurigorri currently sit 9th in the La Liga table but could climb as high as 6th with a victory this weekend. Having played great football in recent fixtures, Asier Villalibre could be included in the starting lineup once again.