Athletic Club is getting ready to host Real Betis on Thursday night at the San Mames and the Lions will be ready. Ernesto Valverde’s side has only lost twice all year at home and taking three points will be a huge step forward in their pursuit of European qualification. The manager spoke to the press on Wednesday ahead of the team’s training session and revealed just how much pressure is on the Basque giants.
“Every game is important and taking three points tomorrow would be vital. There are only a few matches left and it is so important to win. Now, it is even more important. With so few matches left, we have to give our all every minute if we are going to achieve our goal. A win would take us one step closer to our goal. We have played a lot of games and each one is now decisive. Villarreal’s game yesterday was full of tension and their win has put pressure on us. We are all equal and these last games will decide a lot.”Valverde also discussed the upcoming game, saying that Real Betis is a strong side that shouldn’t be taken lightly. When asked about his starting lineup, Txingurri said that he couldn’t speculate because there will likely be changes due to playing three games in one week.
“Real Betis is playing well and arrive on a positive note, so they will be a dangerous opponent. They have already escaped relegation, but they will want to improve their place in the table. Betis will try to keep their good form going so we have to assert our rhythm and take advantage of the San Mames. We will have to be at our best to get all three points. We’ll see how the group is doing today because there might be changes in the team tomorrow. We play tomorrow then on the road Sunday, so we need to stay ready. I don’t want to speculate about tomorrow’s lineup because there might be changes. I don’t know yet. We knew that we needed at least 60 points to qualify for Europe again. Winning tomorrow would put us over that number, but we will need more.”
In closing, Valverde said that he will be excited to potentially win his 100th game at Athletic Club in front of the San Mames faithful, but he refused to discuss his future. When asked about the possible loaning of Asier Villalibre to Numancia, the manager said it could be a really positive move for the young striker while also commenting on the recent form of Iker Muniain.”
“If we win tomorrow it will be my 100th victory at Athletic Club. That is a nice number and special mark. I hope it happens tomorrow, we will see. I don’t want to talk about my future until the season is over. Decisions take time to make. Asier Villalibre possibly going on loan to Numancia. He needs to make the best decision for himself as a player and for the team. His possible loan could be very positive. Muniain’s form? At the beginning of the season he wasn’t at his best but his confidence has grown and I have demanded more from him little by little. He is playing his best of the season and whether on the left or in the middle he offers us a lot. He has played better the longer the season has gone.”
The San Mames has been an absolute fortress for Athletic Club this season and that will need to continue if they are to qualify for Europe once again. Ernesto Valverde will have his entire squad healthy and available to play, but with another tough road game looming on Sunday it would be a shock to not see at least one change in the lineup. The Lions currently hold a one point lead over Real Sociedad for 6th place in the table and are chasing Villarreal for 5th place.