Dani Ruiz-Bazán In Favor Of Resting Key Players Against Villarreal For Cup Trip To Granada
Dani Ruiz-Bazán knows better than most what it takes to win a title with Athletic. Having scored 199 goals in 402 appearances with the Zurigorri, Dani is widely regarded as one of the best forwards in club history and was the captain when Athletic last lifted the Copa del Rey trophy in 1984. Speaking with Jon Zubieta of Mundo Deportivo, the legend shared his thoughts on the team’s chances of winning the title again this season.
“Yes I’m optimistic, but the two qualifiers are very difficult because Athletic are facing a veteran team that is very strong and also wants to reach the final,” said Dani. “The first thing to know is what the club wants and what the players and coaches want. From my personal point of view, I have the feeling that we should prioritize the Cup because it’s only two games. The first one is the qualifier against Granada and then the final. Winning the Cup also gives us the option of being in Europe.”
Like many others, Dani is also supportive of resting key players in Sunday’s match against Villarreal despite the fact that Athletic are winless in their last 10 league games. The legend would easily trade another loss for a place in the Cup final.
“For the Villarreal game it would be good to give rest to certain players so they will be in optimal condition for the Granada game. I wouldn’t mind losing to Villarreal if I knew that Athletic was going to the Cup final. Now, if you lose the Granada match and don’t reach the final then I’d want to win against Villarreal.”
The idea of resting key players is stems from the desire to field the strongest possible lineup in the semifinal second leg. “What I want is to play a good game against Granada,” Dani continued. “The Villarreal match is one where you can afford to rest players because you are still going to have 10 or 12 matches left in the league. You must go to Granada with the maximum force and maximum number of important players.”
Former defender Carlos García somewhat agrees with Dani, though the 49-year-old doesn’t want to entirely disregard the league campaign. “I guess we should prioritize the Cup, although without neglecting the league because we don’t have many points,” says García. “I do think we should give the best chance to reach the Cup final.”
Athletic have played a busy scheduled since the start of January and fatigue has been an issue. While many players have said that they aren’t tired, García doesn’t believe that to be true.
“Part of the team says they aren’t tired, but the impression they give on the field and the results don’t reflect that. They are still giving twice as much effort and we believe they are tired because the performances have suffered. It may be best to rest some players in key positions. Generally the positions that give the most effort are midfielders, although Athletic have been playing with three defenders and two fullbacks who have accumulated many minutes. The coach will know perfectly who needs rest.”
The most important thing is that Athletic won the first leg 1-0 without surrendering an away goal. “We carry a very good result from the previous game,” says García. “If we manage to score a goal then the tie will clearly favor the Lions. Athletic has shown very important defensive solvency until recently and that will be important to win the tie.”
Athletic will travel to Granada for the second leg on Thursday, but must first deal with Villarreal on Sunday at San Mamés. The players and fans are eager to finally put an end to the winless streak in La Liga. The poor run of results has to end at some point, though it’s very likely that Gaizka Garitano will rest key players with the goal of putting the team in the best position to win at Nuevo Estadio de Los Cármenes and advance to the Copa del Rey final.