Athletic Bilbao coach Marcelino says they know the importance of today’s clash with Valencia.
Los Rojiblancos are currently one point behind Villarreal CF, who sit seventh place and a spot in next season’s Conference League. However, as the Yellows take on Sevilla on Sunday night, Athletic will move into the coveted seventh position if they defeat Valencia.
“Winning would allow us to go to bed in a European qualification spot,” Marcelino said at his pre-match press conference in Lezama on Friday afternoon. “It’s an opportunity to prove that we’re doing things right and show why we’re still in the fight at this stage of the competition.”
Valencia are 10th in LaLiga Santander and out of the hunt for a European place after a five-match winless run. Nonetheless Marcelino warned the visitors would not have downed tools just yet, expecting them to put up a fight.
“We know how tough it is because the three games we’ve played against Valencia this season have been difficult,” he said. “I think we were closer to victory than them in all three games, but the reality is that the results didn’t go our way.
“However, that’s in the past, and the present has given us an opportunity to lay down a marker.”
He continued: “It’s clear they’re not in the situation they’d hoped to be in. Historically, they’ve fought for high positions in the table. But, as a very big club, they always have that obligation to compete to the maximum in every game and I’m sure they’ll do that.”
Saturday’s clash will be Athletic’s second consecutive home match and Marcelino emphasised how important a role San Mamés will play in helping the Lions to victory.
“Playing at home is to our advantage,” he said. “Last Saturday we had a great night, the crowd was a huge factor behind the team’s great performance. We need San Mames, we need to feel the roar of the crowd like we did against Atletico.”
The gaffer also spoke about his time at the Club, stating: “I’m proud of the quick decision we had to make when we came here and that we can experience the extraordinary situation we are living in.
“I find myself at a great club, with an extraordinary fan base and a squad that makes me enjoy my profession every day, as well as a board of directors that has trusted us from the very first day and shown us that throughout the whole process. We made the best possible decision.”
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