Gaizka Garitano “Everything Will Be Decided On The Field”
A trip to the Copa del Rey final will be on the line tomorrow night as Athletic travel to Nuevo Estadio de Los Cármenes for the semifinal second leg against Granada. The Lions secured a 1-0 advantage in the first leg at San Mamés, but with 90 minutes left to play no lead is safe. It’s been five years since Athletic last appeared in the Cup family and Gaizka Garitano is relishing this opportunity.
“It’s not everyday that you reach the Cup final with Athletic,” said the manager during Wednesday’s press conference. “We will try to do it with this group and it will be priceless. Everyone is excited. All the players want to be in the squad and that’s not a problem. The spirit is never lacking and we needed to win the game against Villarreal to catch air in the league. Now we have to face a very nice game with a great prize at the end.”
Taking a lead into the second leg is always a good position to be in, especially for a team like Athletic who concede very few goals. However, this will be the biggest game in Granada’s history played in front of their own fans.
“Playing at home is an advantage of them, but in the end everything will be decided on the field. When the ball is kicked both teams will give everything and we want to win. We’re a difficult opponent, but they are too. When you are in this stretch of the competition it’s because you have done things well. We are competitors and we like to be in the situation. Every player and coach wants to be here.”
While Athletic could go into the match looking to protect their 1-0 lead, Garitano says the team will do the opposite. The Lions will look to score more goals to guarantee a good result and advancement to the final.
“We have an advantage from the first leg, but we can’t rely on that. You have to play these games the same like normal and try to score goals. Anything can happen in 15 or 20 minutes and we have prepared tactically for the match. I won’t give away anything that we have prepared, we will show it on the field. We are prepared.”
Athletic haven’t lifted the Cup title since 1984 and there is great hope that the Basque will do so this season. However, the squad isn’t looking that far ahead. For now, Thursday’s match against Granada is the only thing that matters.
“We aren’t thinking about the final because we have this game ahead of us. We have reached the semifinal and we have to be stronger mentally to compete in this extreme situation. Throughout the Cup we have competed well and we want to continue doing so. We aren’t a team that gives up easily or lowers our head, we are hard to play against.”
Garitano will have a big decision to make in regards to the starting lineup with Dani García suspended for the match. On the other hand, Granada will be without striker Roberto Soldado. “It’s a big loss for both teams because they are important players,” said Garitano. The Mister refused to give away any plans heading into the match but one thing is certain, Athletic will leave everything on the field in the biggest match of the season.