Gaizka Garitano “The Cup Is Our Clearest Goal And We Will Go For It”
Athletic can see the Copa del Rey final on the horizon but they aren’t there yet. To reach the final at La Cartuja, the Lions must get past Granada in the semifinals with the first leg being held at San Mamés tomorrow night. While many are dreaming of winning the title for the first time since 1984, Gaizka Garitano is only focused on the next match.
“The Cup is our clearest goal and we have to go for it,” the manager said during Tuesday’s press conference. “We aim to reach the final. I can only control what happens here and I’m telling you that nobody is thinking about Seville because we have two very complicated games ahead of us. What does it matter who is the favorite? I don’t understand the need for a favorite because you have to show it on the field. There is no favorite in the Cup semifinal.”
Unlike previous rounds, the semifinals will take place over two legs which adds a different element at this stage of the competition. Either way, Garitano says the team is only looking at the first match.
“Playing two games instead of one doesn’t change much for the coaches and players because we have to prepare for this game, to go for them and try to win knowing that the tie will be decided there. If things go well we will have to go there to defend our lead and if not then we will have to go solve it. We aren’t thinking about the second leg. You have to be careful, but also ambitious.”
When asked what the team must do to advance to the final, Garitano highlighted the importance of building an advantage in the first leg. More importantly, the manager called on the fans to create another incredible atmosphere to support the players.
“We need the same atmosphere as the game against Barcelona because the tie will be decided by the small details. Scoring and keeping a clean sheet would be ideal, but it must be clear that the round isn’t going to end here. Both teams are capable of winning. We can have difficulties there, but also win.”
Going into Wednesday’s clash there are concerns over Yuri Berchiche and Raúl García. Both missed the Basque Derby over the weekend and could be out against Granada. Garitano admitted that the heavy schedule over the past month has been challenging.
“We have played a lot, including over the weekend. Now we are in the semifinals and we have to go with everything because this doesn’t happen every day. We are looking forward to it. Everyone wants to play, especially those who have been injured. They have spent all day at Lezama trying to recover.”
It’s uncertain whether or not Garitano will field the tradition 4-2-3-1 or the 3-4-1-2 which has brought success recently, though the manager says that both are options. He’s also made a decision on who will start in goal but refused to give a name.
“We have maintained defensive consistency with three center-backs without losing attacking power. We played well with a back four for a year and did well with the wings. We will make the decision based on those we have available. Each system gives us something different and takes some things away.”
A win at San Mamés would put one foot into the final for Athletic and to do that the Basques will need to have a great performance. Granada are also hoping to reach the final but will be welcomed by an unrelenting Cathedral. The Lions and the city of Bilbao are ready to make history.