Gaizka Garitano “The Credit Goes To The Players, They Did A Great Job”
Athletic took a significant step forward in the race for Europe on Wednesday by defeating Valencia 2-0 at Mestalla. The win lifted the Basques to seventh in the La Liga table with five games left to play and gave Athletic the tie-breaker over Valencia if needed. Speaking with reporters after the game, Gaizka Garitano made it clear that anything other than victory would have been an unacceptable result.
“We always want to win. The team is very strong. We’re confident and competing very well. We’re in a good dynamic. We’re going to see if it gives us enough to finish the season in Europe. We’re there right now and we have two and half weeks of work left, but we can’t trust it because we haven’t accomplished anything yet. We expected a victory today at a difficult field.”
Although Athletic started the game in a traditional 4-2-3-1 formation, the team actually played with two strikers for long stretches of the game. Garitano confirmed it was part of the game plan.
“We took some risks playing Raúl and Williams together. We wanted to squeeze their midfielders and give Iker a little more rest on the wing so we could press higher with Raúl. The credit goes to the players, they did a great job. I’m happy with the win and the feelings we’ve given.”
Raúl García may have scored both goals for Athletic, but Garitano was proud to say that everyone played a great game. The manager also praised the five substitutes who made an impact in the second half.
“Everyone played well, that’s the good thing. Those who came off the bench gave a spark. They gave freshness when it was needed. This was a game we had to win no matter what to strike a blow in the table. We have to be cautious now because we have two difficult games very close together.”
Athletic will have a difficult challenge to keep their spot in the top seven. When asked about the team’s point total, Garitano shared that he believes giving so much attention to the Copa del Rey cost Athletic in the league.
“If not for the Cup we would have had more points. When we came back we first had to overcome the points. We’ve done it and now we have to maintain them and add three by three because there are many points left. Getting here was half of the work and now we have the other half.”
Garitano has the team playing great football since the season resume and now Athletic will begin preparing for this weekend’s match against Real Madrid. Staying in the European zone of the table will be demanding, but the Zurigorri have grown accustomed to adversity.
“We’re more confident. It’s difficult to defend and then have combinative play. We have shortcomings, but we’re confident in our football and shows in the players. We don’t have it easy but this team never gives up. We’re going to fight until the end. These are three good points, but we have a difficult stretch of games coming up. I know the players and have faith in them.”
Athletic haven’t lost a game at San Mamés since the stoppage and will need to take advantage of their fortress once again on Sunday. If the Basques can get a positive result against the league leaders they will move even closer to securing a place in Europe next season.