Athletic Club manager Gaizka Garitano emphasised the prestige and importance of the Basque derby ahead of the lions’ showdown with local rivals Real Sociedad.
The match takes place at San Mamés on New Year’s Eve and kicks off at 14:00 CET. It will be the 74th LaLiga fixture played in Bilbao between both sides, the first one being played in LaLiga’s inaugural season in 1929.
“Derbies are always magnified. We know this is not just another match and we want to win it,” Garitano said at his pre-match press conference. “It’s a special fixture and both teams want nothing more than to win.”
Garitano insisted Athletic are approaching the match with the correct attitude and that the lions are desperate to end the year right.
“The team is doing well,” Garitano added. “We’ll try to play well so we can take the three points. We’re optimistic, prepared and motivated.
“Before a derby you always think positively, but then it’s in the hands of the players. That’s football.
“We depend more on our own level than that of our opponents. Every time we do well, the opposition suffers.
“We respect the opposition a lot and we’ll have to be at our best because they’re a good team.
“Preparation throughout the week has been good and we’ll try to make sure the three points stay at home.”
This will be Athletic’s sixth match in December, before heading into a busy January.
However, the lions have had a week’s break since facing Villarreal on December 22 and Garitano reiterated the value of having a squad full of talented players.
“We’re a physical side and this break has been good for us. Although we were in a good form too,” Garitano said.
“It’s good having a squad in which any player can play at any moment. I have confidence in everyone, both those who start and those who come on to contribute in the second half.
“There’s a lot of matches coming and there’s room for everybody.”
Centre-back Yeray Álvarez will miss the clash due to a problem with his right calf muscle. Garitano said it was unfortunate the defender would miss the match, but he knows the squad is good enough to cope with the defender’s absence.
“It’s a shame because he was playing at a good level,” Garitano said. “[Unai] Nuñez, who will play tomorrow, is also in good form though.
“We get [Asier] Villalibre back but we lose Yeray. It’s a pity but we have to keep going forward.”
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