On Sunday Athletic Club will play their third La Liga match of the season when they will host newly promoted Girona at the San Mamés. The Lions currently sit tied for fourth in the La Liga table and will be looking to take another vital three points at home. Following training on Saturday, manager Kuko Ziganda gave his pregame press conference and was noncommittal on whether or not Aritz Aduriz would feature after the striker missed some practices with lower back pain. He also revealed that Kepa Arrizabalaga is dealing with a fever and may sit this one out as well.
“Aduriz was able to complete training today and we will assess whether he will play tomorrow or get a rest, but he is available. Adu is decisive and necessary. He’s an important player but he will not play every game. Somedays it will be better for him to rest, but if he is in the squad list it is because he can play. He’s been dealing with these discomforts since facing Panathinaikos. Kepa had a bad night with a fever and he is still feverish. We will wait to see how he evolves and what condition he is in for tomorrow. As for his renewal, I am optimist. We know the type of person he is so I’m optimistic.”
When asked whether or not Iñaki Williams would start as the striker, Ziganda said there are several options if Aduriz is unable to play. He went on to say that rotations are very important, even early in the season, and that it is something that managers need to think about ahead of time.
“We will see. Sabin Merino and Kike [Sola] are also options, but we’ll see what decisions we need to make. If Aduriz doesn’t play, then we have Iñaki and Sabin who can do it. The team has a lot of competition. I am a coach and I am trying to polish Iñaki who can play on the wing or as the center forward. We have time to work with him which is incredible and he will continue improving. At Bilbao Athletic he played many games there and I like when he plays as the nine. Rotations are something that you have to keep in mind. I have to plan them and think ahead. I do not want to compromise or overwork anyone. I want to see the trainings, the matches, and what kind of energy the team has. I see the players very plugged in and do not see big differences.”
In closing, Ziganda said that Athletic are not planning on changing their style of play against Girona. He recognizes that the Catalans will be a very difficult opponent and says that the Lions have a lot of respect for them. Of course, he also mentioned that this will be a very special game for Gorka Iraizoz who joined Girona over the summer after a decade as Athletic Club’s starting goalkeeper.
“We do not intend on changing the system against Girona, at least in the beginning. They are doing things very well, with a coach who maintains his system. They were one of the best teams in the Segunda and won the prize of promotion. They come with the euphoria of promotion and without any pressure. They are enjoying their football and working hard every match. We have a lot of respect for them and they can be similar to Eibar. I believe it will be a more open match than the one against Getafe. We will have more options to attack and launch counterattacks. For Gorka [Iraizoz] it will be a very special match. We know what he has done for Athletic and you have to be very proud. We welcome him and he deserves recognition, but from there on we will try to score goals on him.”
It will be very interesting to see what type of lineup decisions are made on Sunday. The Lions will be traveling to Germany on Thursday for the first match of the Europa League group stage so Kuko Ziganda does have some important decisions to make. Xabi Etxeita and Mikel Vesga were left out of Sunday’s squad list which could mean that they are in line to start midweek. Regardless, the key to a successful season is taking it one game at a time and that is exactly what Athletic Club is looking to do.