Gaizka Garitano “There’s No Team Capable Of Dominating Eibar At Ipurua”
Athletic will played a surreal Basque Derby on Wednesday as the Lions travel to an empty Ipurua to face off with Eibar. Although the Lions will be seen a favorites Eibar sit just two points above the relegation zone and will be desperate to get a good result and climb even further away from danger. Having coached Eibar in the past, Gaizka Garitano knows what to expect.
“All games at Ipurua are the same because Eibar chokes you,” said the Athletic manager in Tuesday’s press conference. “There’s no team capable of dominating Eibar there. If you aren’t ready for the challenges and second plays it will cost you. Eibar’s game suffocates you and make it difficult for you on the field. Away from home you have to think about scoring two goals to win these games.”
Not having fans at the stadium will greatly change the Derby. Garitano admits it won’t be the same, but says the team must adjust to the challenge.
“It will be a lesser Derbies. I wouldn’t say decaf, but fans are essential in football. You can do without everything but the fans, but we’re all in the same situation. It is what it is, we have to adapt to it. It will be a rare and strange Derby.”
Fortunately, Garitano says the team has already adapted well. It’s impossible to have the same level of intensity without fans, but in other areas he’s happy with what he’s seen from the players.
“We’ve gotten used to it quickly. It didn’t seem as strange to me as I thought, but it’s true that we miss the fans. The other day in San Mamés would have been special with the fans. That made me sad. We’re getting used to the rest.”
Wednesday’s match will be the second of four games that Athletic will play in ten days. With such a compressed schedule it will be important to rotate the squad, though Garitano says there won’t be too many changes.
“We will try to have a recognizable team, but we aren’t going to make eight changes because we’ve rested well. It’s the second game of the eleven and we aren’t going to make so many changes every day. The team has to be recognizable and have a structure. At San Mamés we had to replace Yuri because he was cramping. Let’s see if he trains well.”
Coaches will be allowed to make five substitutions per game for the rest of the season and game day squads have been increased to 23 players. Because of this more players will have chances to see minutes and Unai Vencedor could be included in the team for the trip to Eibar after training with the first team.
“There will be ample calls and opportunities. The other day we had Villalibre injured, we just competed, and other injuries are sure to come or some players not recovering in time for games. There could also be suspensions because of cards, but Unai has already played with us. We like him a lot and he’s coming to compete with others.”
Athletic’s performance against Atlético was impressive given the circumstances. The Zurigorri could have taken all three points, but a draw was still a good result and Garitano wants to build on the exceptional showing from the midfield.
“Unai (López) and Muniain give us many possibilities of internal play. We have the option of also going outside, but with them we have much more football and have associative play. I like that formula. Having options and versatility will be important.”
With only ten games left to play Athletic’s are still very much in the race for Europe. Taking all three points at Ipurua would go a long way towards reaching that goal and Garitano is confident that the Lions can reach the top seven.
“We’re optimistic. We’ve started at a disadvantage and we have to get enough points. I see the team capable of anything. We don’t have it easy, but we’re going to go for it. Making excuses won’t help. What we have to do is go game by game and try to win each one.”
Like other coaches, Garitano will be in a difficult situation for the rest of the season. The Mister must juggle fielding a strong lineup while also giving players enough rest to stay at their best. Wednesday’s Basque Derby will be another final for the Zurigorri who are determined to move closer to Europe with a victory.