Gaizka Garitano “We Know That We Have To Win Games”
Athletic sit just three points off of Europe with three games left to play. The recent losses to Real Madrid and Sevilla were a blow to the team’s chances of finishing in the top seven, but the race is still very much alive. It’s almost certain that Athletic will need to take all nine points available, but Gaizka Garitano is refusing to look past Sunday’s trip to Levante.
“We can’t think about winning the next three games because we have to focus on winning the first one,” Garitano told reporters on Saturday. “What we have to do is beat Levante and then think about the next one. It’s that simple. It all depends on what we do, not looking at other results. If the other results favor us, that’s good, but we are only focused on ourselves. We know that we have to win games.”
The Granotas have been a dangerous team since the season returned, but have struggled at times defensively. Athletic will have to play a good game to come away with a win and Garitano isn’t taking the match lightly.
“Levante is a strong opponent, with very good plays and many strikers who can score goals. They’re an offensive team which plays good football, but they have more problems with conceding goals. We must try to play in a way that makes them uncomfortable and we have to get into the opposite area, creating danger like we did against Valencia.”
Garitano will have to make do without a number of key players against Levante. Dani García will miss out through suspension, while Yuri Berchiche and Yeray are recovering from injuries.
“Yuri is in no condition to play. Capa has discomfort because he finished the last game touched and we will see if Beñat can train this afternoon. There are also other footballers who we must see how they are.”
Aside from the absences, Garitano admitted that there could be additional changes to the lineup. Fatigue has become an issue at this point in the campaign and the Mister wants to have fresh legs on the field.
“The team is physically well. We have data and it’s very good. When you play against a team like Levante you have to make a lot of effort and, naturally, players will end the game tired. No more, no less. We are going to try to bring freshness tomorrow but it’s logical that there will be some fatigue, some more than others.”
Garitano was also asked about the form of Iñaki Williams who has yet to score since the restart. “A forward needs to score from time to time to help the team and have more confidence,” he answered. “We hope that he finds the goal, which is a facet in which we aren’t superfluous. It would also be a reward for the work he does because strikers live by scoring goals.”
Unsurprisingly, questions about the recent VAR controversy were also raised. Garitano didn’t pull any punches and gave his opinion that things have been different since the season resumed.
“After the break it’s been seen that the criteria and what is happening isn’t the same as what was happening before. In recent weeks there has been a very different tendency to whistle things. It’s difficult to arbitrate and make decisions. At first they told us that in the gray plays, the ones that aren’t black and white, VAR wasn’t going to get involved and now it’s happening.”
The questionable calls in the losses to Real Madrid and Sevilla were extremely disappointing. However, there’s really nothing that can be done and Garitano says the team just needs to move on.
“On the other hand, in obvious plays the referee isn’t being helped. It’s not what we were told at the beginning. If you play a good match you will be less exposed to the decisions that can be made. We can’t focus on it too much because it’s not something we can do anything about.”
A win against Levante, coupled with other favorable results this weekend, could see Athletic move back into the top seven. With three games left to play every single point will be golden as the race for Europe will certainly go down to the final day of the season.