Gaizka Garitano “We’re Not Giving Up On Anything”
The entire La Liga season has come down to this week. Athletic trail seventh place by just three points with two games left to play and will have a prime opportunity to make up ground on Thursday night when Leganés visit San Mamés. Los Pepineros may be missing several key players, but Leganés still have a chance to fight their way out of the relegation zone and Gaizka Garitano is wary of danger.
“We would have preferred to not play Leganés, who we have all the respect in the world for,” Garitano said during Wednesday’s press conference. “We know that they are going for everything and we’re going for seventh place. Both teams need to win. They are a complicated opponent. In the last three games they kept clean sheets and they always have many casualties. They’re risking their lives and everything will be one the line.”
While Leganés will be without 8 players, Athletic were also expected to be missing a few. Ander Capa, Yuri Berchiche, and Beñat have still been recovering from muscle injuries, but have since been cleared and are included in the squad as is Yeray who was slated to miss the rest of the season with a calf problem.
“They are all recovering well, it may be that all four of them can play or none. I don’t regret the rotations. We need the best team to win, we’re fair, but we pick the teams based on the physical data and we’ve had fewer injuries than other teams. Yeray is doing very well and if he’s not able to play then we have Vivian who has been training perfectly.”
Athletic are chasing that last Europa League spot in the table, but are just as close to climbing into sixth. Garitano made it clear that the team is keeping their options open and are confident that they can get into Europe if they win their final two games.
“We always have to think that it will take the most effort and we will surely need six points, starting with these three. The situation is easy. If we win tomorrow then we go to Granada needing to win. We’re not giving up on anything. We need to win. We’re playing for something very important. Hopefully we can give the fans a joy and classify for sixth or seventh. It won’t be easy because we don’t depend on ourselves.”
Athletic will be favorites going into Thursday’s match at San Mamés, but Leganés cannot be overlooked. Javier Aguirre’s side are just four points away from safety and will be desperate for points. The Zurigorri will need to play a great game to seal a victory and go into the final game of the season with a chance at qualifying for Europe.