Mikel Balenziaga “The Clear Objective Is To Qualify For Europe”
La Liga could finally return on 12 June. That’s the tentative date that the league is hoping to make a reality, but it only gives teams a short window of time to get back in shape and ready to resume matches. Whenever the season does pick back up every team will have at least two games per week which will be strenuous on the players.
“There is concern about injuries because there will be matches every few days and we only have a month to prepare,” Athletic defender Mikel Balenziaga told Athletic TV. “What we have to do is train and work hard to be ready. We have to prepare for the start of the league. We have a month and we’re going to do our best to arrive in the best possible way physically.”
Athletic’s first team players returned to training last weekend and on Monday were given permission to start working in groups of ten. Having to train individually at first was strange, but Balenziaga says everything has gone much better than expected.
“The organization was great. We were all afraid to see how it would go, but it’s been much more enjoyable than expected. This week we have already been able to start working in groups and it’s different. We want to get back to the league at the best time possible. The training is similar to preseason, but it’s different because we’re in May. We’re coming back from two months at home and then comes an eleven-game season.”
Football will look different when the season returns. To begin with, matches will be played behind closed doors and in Balenziaga’s opinion that will take away Athletic’s advantage at home.
“For us it will be very different. At San Mamés we are used to having 40,000 fans pushing us minute by minute and I think for us in this case it’s a negative. From that point of view everything will be evened out a little.”
On the other hand, match day squads will be larger and coaches will be allowed to make five substitutes instead of the usual three. “It will be positive for everyone because with larger squads and more substitutes there will be more players involved,” says Balenziaga. “For the team, the more players who are involved in the game, the better.”
With eleven games remaining Athletic’s ultimate goal is to earn a place in Europe. “The clear objective is to finish among the top seven and qualify for the Europa League next year,” Balenziaga said strongly. “That’s what we’re going to try to do from day one.” If the season does resume Athletic’s next game on the schedule will be against Atlético Madrid at San Mamés.