Fran Yeste “Athletic Is Able To Beat Anyone”
Fran Yeste faced Barcelona many times throughout 12 seasons with Athletic. The club icon, who featured in 353 games for the Lions, was one of the team’s best players throughout the 2000s and knows what it means to wear the Zurigorri shirt. Ahead of today’s Copa del Rey match at San Mamés, Yeste spoke with Ignasi Oliva Gispert of Goal where he gave Gaizka Garitano a vote of confidence.
“Garitano has a solid team that allows few goals and offers guarantees to always score or win. Until a few days ago the team was in a pretty good situation despite the fact that in recent games they haven’t managed to win, but it’s still a competitive team and Garitano is getting very good performances out of his players.”
Having retired in 2012, Yeste admits that he misses playing in these big games. A win over Barcelona would put Athletic into the semifinals and one step closer to lifting a 25th Cup title.
“You always miss these big games against these teams, in this case Barcelona. But now I can only see it from outside, enjoy it, and try to encourage the team to achieve victory. It would be a very important win because it would be against a great opponent and would give the team a possibility of reaching the next phase of the Copa del Rey.”
Athletic beat Barcelona 1-0 at San Mamés on the opening day of the La Liga season and Yeste is confident that they can do it again. Playing at home gives the Basques an incredible advantage and confidence to eliminate one of the biggest clubs on the planet.
“They can repeat it because the game is at home in front of the Athletic fans, people who are very excited about today’s game. There will be a spectacular atmosphere. In addition, Athletic is able to beat anyone. It’s complicated, of course, because we are facing a very good opponent but there is always a possibility of winning and they have already achieved it on the first day of the league. Why can’t they do it again?”
Yeste expects an even match between the two sides and warns that Barcelona can’t afford to take this fixture for granted. Athletic will push the Catalans from the opening whistle with the belief that they can win.
“The game will very open, it will have a lot of rhythm and intensity. Either one of the teams is able to go through. Aduriz, for example, is better in spite of his chronic hip injury which has prevented him from being one hundred percent, but surely he will be in a position to help the team. If he plays he will give his best just like the rest. Athletic is a team that will fight. They are strong from set pieces and can hurt you. It would be a mistake for Barcelona to take this game lightly, it would cost them the match.”
Yeste played some of his best football under Ernesto Valverde who was recently sacked by Barcelona. When asked about the club’s decision to part ways with Valverde the former midfielder shared that it really didn’t make sense to him and that the entire ordeal was handled poorly.
“I honestly don’t understand. He’s a great professional who has always maintained great respect for the players and the club. It’s true that perhaps the team’s game was not as expected but in terms of numbers his performance was at an optimal level. Being eliminated from the Champions League greatly influenced the club’s decision, but I think he’s a coach with very good skills and he was very qualified to continue. From the outside I don’t think the club handled it in the most appropriate way, but these things happen in football. It doesn’t surprise me much either.”
Since the managerial change there has been a lot of drama surrounding Barcelona. However, Yeste doesn’t think any of that will impact the team’s performance at San Mamés.
“Even so, Barcelona is endowed with very good players and any of them are able to take the game forward. It’s true that it’s not their best moment but they are always a very complicated and beautiful team to watch. Their philosophy of football is always attractive to watch.”
Yeste, like the current Athletic players, is optimistic that the Lions can eliminate Barcelona. “A 1-0 win would suffice,” he answered when asked for his prediction. “Hopefully we can win with a fair result. I think it would be very nice for us and we would advance to the next round.” Athletic’s dream of lifting another Copa del Rey title now faces its biggest test.