Valverde: "There's a lot at stake, we must give our all"

Valverde: "There's a lot at stake, we must give our all"

The boss is confident Athletic can finish the season strong and "move a bit higher up the table"

Ernesto Valverde said his Lions will have to give it everything in Thursday's crucial LaLiga clash at San Mames against European qualification rivals Real Betis at 22:00 CEST.

Athletic Club, currently seventh in the standings, are just two points and one place behind Manuel Pellegrini's side heading into the clash in Bilbao.

"We have a lot at stake in this match. We have to keep our nerves in check and give our all on the pitch," Valverde said at a pre-match press conference on Wednesday evening. "We want the game to go our way and we're going to try and make that happened from the first minute.

"We're at a point of the season where the matches are decisive and this is one of them. Betis are in sixth place and three points are just as important for them as they are for us.

"It's a long season, with not a lot to separate teams in terms of quality. But let's see if we can finish strong in these last six games and finish a little higher up the table. We have to fight until the end."

The gaffer called on fans to get to The Cathedral for the clash, saying their support will be crucial for the players on the night.

He said: "Our fans push us forward. Although our home form has been a bit strange, I think we're a strong team at San Mames."

The Andalusians are going through a rough patch with just one win in their last five fixtures, but the gaffer pointed singled out their early season form while warning they would be difficult opponents.

"Betis aren't getting the results they were in the first half of the season, they had a spectacular start and consolidate a place in the top half with some consistent results," Vaverde added.

"In the last few weeks they have struggled. Even so, they're still dangerous in attack and have some strong, talented players. Both teams played well in the reverse fixture. Although it was 0-0, there was plenty of action at both ends."

Valverde acknowledged that the successive fixtures, three in the space of a week, and late kick-off times are a "hindrance" in terms of preparation, but admitted it is something Betis have also gone through this season.

He said: "It's a hindrance to have less recovery time, but Betis have suffered from it more compared to other teams this season due to playing in Europe on Thursdays. It's something you get used to and you can't really complain too much.

"I think it would've made more sense to play this game on Sunday. I know that the Cup final is on Saturday. But the rest of us are going to have a weekend off, with a month of competition left, when we've got a tight schedule and are playing midweek."