Athletic Club coach Ernesto Valverde faced the media on Friday ahead of his team’s clash with Real Madrid at San Mames on Saturday. The Basque side have lost a key player in Iñigo Martinez and will also be without Yeray Alvarez. Valverde spoke about the challenge of facing Real Madrid, Carlo Ancelotti’s new formation, and the status of some of his players. Here are some of the highlights of what he said:
- On the departures of Thibaut Courtois and Karim Benzema: “They are two extraordinary players. Last year Courtois was decisive in the two games we played against them. And we suffered from Benzema over time... But Real Madrid are beginning a new stage of change with young players and with a lot of physical potential.... They’ve changed their plans a bit, especially since their midfield is very important. I’ve seen them very well in attack and I haven’t seen them so well at the back bad as some have commented. They have good central defenders and powerful full-backs, they have fast and strong players. I see Real Madrid as a consolidated block, although they still lack time and will have to adapt certain movements. Bellingham will not need much time to feel comfortable in Real Madrid”.
- On tomorrow’s game: “What you want most is to start well. We have had strong games at the beginning, but we also have come from strong preseason games. The start marks the game and the idea is to catch a good wave to ride on,”
- On Yeray’s health: “It’s a muscle issue. We don’t think it could be related to the pubic problem that was operated on in May. We understand that we can count on him soon.”
- On the new look Real Madrid: “As a reference they have spent 100 million on a player and it will be for a reason. They have also changed their way of playing. A strong game awaits us. Last year it seemed that we dominated them in San Mamés, but you can never take your guard down because at any moment they can score a goal. You have to be very focused not to concede and at the same time hurt them”.
- On Dani Carvajal’s challenge on Yuri last season: “We don’t think that Carvajal wanted to injure Yuri, we think that he wanted to stop a counter-attack play. Carvajal got a yellow card and Yuri got a broken fibula. Carvajal will play tomorrow and Yuri is still injured.”