Gaizka Garitano “Tomorrow’s Game Is Probably The Most Important Of The Season”
Athletic will look to make up ground in the race for Europe on Sunday as the Lions host Getafe at San Mamés. Both sides have been exceptional defensively over the past year which will make it difficult for either to score goals. Gaizka Garitano admitted during Saturday’s pregame press conference that Athletic have struggled to find the back of the net but insists that the team has created chances.
“It’s not about luck, it’s about success. We try to generate the most chances possible so that we will score more goals. It’s something we have been training and working on, but it’s difficult to score in the Primera. The big teams have those forwards and it’s not easy to find a player who is going to score 15 goals.”
Even though Athletic have managed to create more in front of goal, finishing has been a big issue for the Basques. Taking all three points against Getafe will be a challenge and Garitano is confident that Athletic can get the job done at home.
“It’s been hard for us to score even when we’ve created chances. I think that will be our weaknesses during the season because those things aren’t easy to change. As long as we play well we will be in position to win games. We feel good but a team doesn’t live on feelings, a team lives on winning. We try to win every game and the longer you go without winning the more need you have. We will try to play a good game tomorrow and win.”
Athletic currently trail Getafe by five points and could significantly lessen the gap with a victory on Sunday. “Getafe are a direct rival and winning would bring us closer to them,” Garitano said purposefully. “They are in the Champions League positions and there are a few teams behind us so we want to create distance and fight for those higher places. For that, we need to beat Getafe tomorrow.”
Getafe have been a very strong side in La Liga this season and enter Sunday’s match having won their last two games without conceding a goal. Garitano is well aware of their strengths and the importance of avoiding unnecessary mistakes.
“They are a team doing things superbly well and not only this year. They’ve been getting better and having great seasons over the years. It seems impossible for that team to improve but they keep improving. They are deservedly in the Champions League area and if we do things right we will be a hard team for them to face. We must play our best and try to win against a strong opponent.”
Athletic had a very busy schedule throughout the month of January and many key players haven’t had chances to rest and recover. The manager explained that the squad has been able to handle the fatigue well and says that everyone is fully prepared to take the field against Getafe.
“It’s true that there are some players who have accumulated a lot of minutes, but it’s also true that they are our most important players. There is always a doubt between giving them rest and starting them. Sometimes those players have to stay on the bench. The other day Raúl García was on the bench and other times Muniain has or we’ve subbed off Williams first. I always say that the most important thing is winning which is the basis of our decisions. The players are fine, I think everyone is looking forward to playing tomorrow.”
Friday’s Copa del Rey quarterfinal draw saw Athletic matched up against Barcelona in what will be a special game at San Mamés. The Lions must win to advance to the semifinals, but aren’t looking past Getafe.
“We are thinking about Getafe, nothing more. We didn’t care who we drew in the Cup. We get to play at home and when it’s time to prepare for that game that’s what we will do. We’re happy to be fighting with the best teams in these final rounds. Right now we are more concerned about the league because tomorrow’s game is probably one of the most important, if not the most, of the season.”
In closing, Garitano was asked about Athletic’s silence throughout the January transfer window. The departure of Cristian Ganea was the only move for the Basques and the Mister once again reiterated that he had no desire to part with any players.
“We are the only team that didn’t sign reinforcements in the summer and one of three who didn’t do so in the winter. What we cannot do is weaken the team by losing players. I already made it clear that I didn’t want anyone to leave and that hasn’t changed. I count on all the players who are here. There’s no logic to taking players off of our bench to have minutes somewhere else.”
Athletic have gone five straight league games without suffering defeat, though all have ended in draws. With the Zurigorri having fallen all the way to ninth in the table, Athletic are in need of a big win to add three points and continue challenging for European qualification.