Gaizka Garitano “The Support Of San Mamés Is Very Important”
Athletic’s Cup run will face its strongest challenge yet when the Lions host Barcelona at San Mamés on Thursday. After advancing through the opening four rounds the Basques must now beat Barcelona to book their place in the semifinals and dream of lifting a 25th Copa del Rey title. For that to happen, the team must be perfect to eliminate the Catalan giants.
“We always expect to play the best and we hope to play a good game and advance,” Gaizka Garitano told reporters during Wednesday’s press conference. “We have hopes in this competition. We are in an exciting tournament in which we have already progressed through four rounds. Playing the Cup is always exciting and motivating for Athletic and we always want to win.”
Playing the match at home will give Athletic a significant advantage and fans will create a special atmosphere at the Cathedral. That being said, Garitano also pointed out that the team must play well to generate the most support from the supporters.
“For us, the support of San Mamés is very important. This will be a very nice match in the final stages of the competition. We can’t think that it will be an easy match. We have respect for our opponent, but we aren’t going to make things easy for them. Playing at San Mamés and the support of our fans adds a lot in our favor. The team has to be completely plugged in and push Barcelona to receive the support of the fans.”
When it comes to playing Barcelona, motivation is never lacking. The manager explained that the team is very excited for tomorrow’s match and the players have shown confidence in the days leading up to the Cup clash.
“The first thing is to prepare for the game well and to play well, which is what it takes to beat one of the best teams in the world. This isn’t a game where you need to draw a lot of motivation because we already have it. We are motivated because of our opponent and this being the Cup quarterfinals.”
When asked about the game plan and possible formation Garitano refused to give anything away. Instead, the Mister said that the team has worked on mistakes that were made in the loss to Getafe while also sharing that Athletic must press Barcelona to create chances in front of goal.
“We never usually say how we are going to play. You will see it tomorrow. We will try to improve the things that we didn’t do well against Getafe. We have corrected a lot and talked a lot so now we have to be focused to win this game. We have to play with great intensity and not let them be comfortable because they have quality and like to have possession. We have to press them which is what we’ve always done well and we can’t lose that. Barcelona has a way of playing football and it’s always recognizable.”
The manager was also questioned about the statuses of Ander Capa and Yuri Berchiche who have both missed training over the past few days. “We will see how they train today,” he answered. “They haven’t trained this week and Capa was ill last week then also had a muscular problem.”
Much has been made over the past 24 hours in regards to the apparent drama at Barcelona. Lionel Messi voiced frustrations on social media, though Garitano doesn’t think any of it will affect Barcelona’s performance on the field. The Mister also didn’t want to get into the sacking of Ernesto Valverde, but had high praise for the former Athletic manager.
“What crisis do you have when you have Messi, Griezmann, Rakitic, and those players. I don’t think it affects them at all. Barcelona are favorites because they have the best players in the world. When a new coach comes in there are always nuances, but the base is the same players. The coaching change is a subject for Barcelona that I won’t discuss. For me, Ernesto Valverde is the best coach in the league and one of the mirrors in which I look.”
Defeating Barcelona would send Athletic through to the semifinals and fans have already begun discussing the possibility of facing Real Sociedad for the title. “First we have to win tomorrow,” Garitano interjected when asked about the idea of meeting La Real in the final. “From there we will think about what can happen. The most important thing is the next game.” Athletic are giving their full attention to Thursday’s game with confidence that they can stun Barcelona for a second time this season.