Gaika Garitano “It’s A Joy To See The Young Players Breaking Into The First Team”

Gaizka Garitano kept key players out of the lineup against Oviedo (AC)

Athletic is one step closer to starting the La Liga season following Friday’s 2-2 draw with Real Oviedo. It wasn’t the best performance from the Lions, but with several starters left out of the squad the younger players once again took center stage with valuable first team minutes. Ultimately, the trip to Estadio Carlos Tartiere served its purpose.

“This game helps us to continue training and preparing,” Gaizka Garitano said after the match. “We were able to face a little competition today and, above all, it was time to play 90 minutes. Many had to play 90 minutes today. Despite the heat they have done well, but they suffered a lot. Because of the heat it was difficult for the game to have a lot of rhythm at the end, but it suits us well. There have been no injuries and we were able to keep preparing.”

The manager praised the performances of the younger players who have taken important steps forward over the past few weeks. In addition, Friday’s friendly also saw Unai Núñez, Iñigo Córdoba, and Mikel Vesga play their first minutes of the preseason.

“Today we played again with many young players from Bilbao Athletic. It’s a joy to see the young players breaking into the first team. It’s good for all of us to play in one of these stadiums. For the kids, it’s good to play against professional teams like Oviedo. Having minutes in the first team now during the preseason is very good for us, for the future and the immediate present with so many players absent or only just returning.”

Athletic’s preseason concludes tomorrow. Local rivals Eibar visit Lezama for the final friendly of the summer, and the last test before the start of the season. This time the regular starters will take the field.

Unai Núñez played his first minutes of the summer (AC)

“Now we have to prepare for tomorrow’s game. We hope that we can also complete that training session against Eibar and then prepare for the Granada match. We are in a phase where we already have to play 90 minutes because now it seems that there will only be three changes allowed. We need to be prepared and have fitness before starting the competition.”

The La Liga season kicks off next Friday night with a trip to Granada. Athletic will then have a two week break until the following game which Garitano believes will benefit the team.

“It will be good for us to continue playing and preparing because we have players at different levels of fitness in the squad. Some have been training for 20 days and are very well physically. Others have trained very little and haven’t even played yet. That break will be good for us to have minutes, especially for those who joined this week”

Gaizka Garitano called up 20 players for tomorrow’s friendly against Eibar. Iñaki Williams, Iñigo Martínez, and Oihan Sancet could play their first minutes of the summer, although Yuri Berchiche is still unavailable. The defender returned to training earlier in the week, but is now in doubt for the league opener.

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