Yeray “We All Have To Be On The Same Level”
In just one week Athletic will return to action for the first time since the Lions defeated Real Valladolid 4-1 back on 8 March. Athletic will have the remaining 11 games to fight for a top seven finish, but it won’t be easy. Some clubs in cities that weren’t as affected by the pandemic have requested permission to partially open their stadiums, but doing so wouldn’t be fair to others.
“We all have to have the same probabilities of winning,” Yeray told El Larguero during an interview on Cadena Ser. “For some to have fans and others not would adulterate the competition a little. We all have to be on the same level.”
Playing behind closed doors at San Mamés will be difficult for Athletic. The Basques have always been really strong at home where the fans create an incredible atmosphere and that support will be sorely missed.
“It’s a bad thing for us. San Mamés is our fortress and with the fans it’s like playing with an additional player. This situation will benefit us for those games that we have away from home. The other day we trained at San Mamés and we could already see it. There’s a lot of noise with voices, screams, and everything is heard. Every pass, a shout from a teammate who is open, the shouts from the goalkeeper warning the defense it’s all heard clearly.”
After such a long break Yeray is certain that the remaining games will be different. Without fans home teams won’t have as much of an advantage and the defender feels that it will level the playing field even more.
“It will be clearly seen that the level of the league is equal for all teams. We’re all in the same situation. Some factors won’t influence games as much as before when playing behind closed doors. There will be no pressure because there will be no fans in the stands. That changes things a lot. There will be many surprises and hopefully it will be good for us.”
Ultimately, Athletic’s goal is to finish in the top seven and qualify for the Europe. Gaizka Garitano’s side currently trail seventh by five points which, to Yeray, can definitely be overcome.
“It (qualifying for Europe) was the goal from the beginning of the season. There are still 11 games and 33 points. There’s a lot left and we’re just five points away. We have a complicated schedule, but we can move forward. We had the bad streak in which we went man consecutive games without finding victory then things began to improve before all of this.”
Yeray is excited to play football again, but recognizes the likelihood that there will be more injuries. More so than ever before, players will have to work to stay in the best shape possible.
“I’m eager for the ball to roll again, but there is great uncertainty. Now we’re going to play matches every few days so we have to take great care of ourselves. The probability of injury is greater. The help of the doctors, the treatment, and other things are going to have a lot to do with the results because they will decide the small details. We’ve been preparing for this last month and now is when we’re most aware that a small injury or any nonsense could leave you out for the rest of the season. There are eleven games left and that’s 30 percent of the season.”
Athletic will be back in action next Sunday against Atlético Madrid at an empty San Mamés. Apart from Iñigo Lekue, who is nursing an ankle sprain, Garitano will have the entire squad available as the Zurigorri begin the final stage of their fight for Europe.