Manu Sarabia “Athletic Is A Very Strong Team And Right Now They’re Capable Of Beating Anyone”
Manu Sarabia was one of the last Athletic players to ride La Gabarra. The legendary forward, who scored 118 goals over 11 seasons in Bilbao, helped lead the Lions to two La Liga titles along with the 1984 Copa del Rey triumph. Today the Pink Panther of Gallarta still keeps a close eye on his former club and is pleased with what he’s seen from Athletic under manager Gaizka Garitano.
“The team is doing very well now,” Sarabia told El Transistor. “We could say that Athletic is now a very difficult team to beat. For me, Valencia has been the most complete game Athletic has played this season. The important thing is the feeling that the team is giving. It’s always been good, but I see that Athletic is a very strong team and right now they’re capable of beating anyone. Right now Athletic is very, very good.”
Gaizka Garitano has had his fair share of criticism this season, but Sarabia is happy with the manager. The former highlighted physical football as one of the keys to the team’s recent success.
“I’ve seen that Garitano is managing the efforts very well. I already said at the start of this La Liga season that managing the players and the changes, both during the games and between games, was going to be key. I think Athletic is doing very well from a physical aspect, it’s a fundamental basis for the team’s success. They played very well in Barcelona, very well against Mallorca at San Mamés, and at Mestalla they played a very complete match.”
As a former striker, Sarabia has also been impressed with the way that Garitano has used both Raúl García and Iñaki Williams up front. The variations and versatility has yielded great results as of late.
“I think another of Garitano’s successes is knowing how to alternate the positions between Raúl García and Iñaki Williams at the top. One plays inside and the other falls to the wing, but then later both exchange their positions, or Raúl is delayed and plays behind. Williams is so good now because he’s improved his dribbling while standing still when until now it was just all speed, but now other parts of his game are showing.”
Looking ahead, Sarabia is confident that Athletic can qualify for Europe. It won’t be easy, however, as the Lions will host Real Madrid on Sunday in what will be a difficult test at San Mamés.
“Playing at 2 in the afternoon in July is nonsense, but the mere fact that we’re talking about Athletic having the possibility of qualifying Europe with this schedule is already an achievement. Two games ago we were thinking that goal was already too far away. The team is playing very well.”
A positive result against Real Madrid would put Athletic one step closer to Europe. The race is as tight as ever and with just 15 points left to play for just one could be the difference between qualifying for Europe or missing out entirely.