We’ve exceeded all of our expectations, says Valverde
The Athletic Club coach previewed Sunday’s clash with Valencia at Mestalla and quashed rumours over the Barça job.
Athletic Club coach Ernesto Valverde spent almost half an hour in the hot seat during a press conference that was much longer than usual on Friday. The coach previewed Sunday’s clash with Valencia at Mestalla – a ground which holds happy memories for him, and confirmed that Beñat and Toquero are both available for selection.
It seems the situation before wasn’t as drastic as we thought...
We’ll find out whether we are in a crisis or not next week – it all depends on how we get on against Valencia. Everything tends to be exaggerated in football. For those of us on this side, we’re more concerned about maintaining a relaxed atmosphere – it’s only common sense. The team hasn’t changed too much and so let’s see if we can maintain the advantage we have in the table, or even increase it. Our remaining games in the league calendar are very difficult.
Are the next two matches (against Valencia and Villarreal) decisive?
Yes, of course they are. We’re talking about two games in which there’s a lot at stake for both sides – they are our direct rivals. Valencia are 15 points behind but there are a great side and our meetings with them are always important. I don’t know whether you can call them decisive games but certainly, important ones.
How do you remember your time at Valencia?
It was great; I really enjoyed my time there. I have to thank Valencia for remembering me at that time. The work atmosphere was excellent, the facilities in Paterna were amongst the best I have ever had and I was in charge of some very talented players. It was just a shame that we just missed out on qualifying for the Champions League. I know that their fans can be very demanding but that just obliges you to do your best. I have no complaints about how I was treated, everyone was fantastic with me.
They went on an impressive spending spree during the winter window...
Yes, they’ve brought in quite a few players and let others go. But despite that, as a team they are still similar because all of the key players remain. They’ve changed a little in attack with [Eduardo] Vargas but otherwise, they haven’t changed too much.
[Athletic President Josu] Urrutia affirmed that you don’t have an exit clause in your contract. Can you confirm that you will see your contract out?
For a coach to say that they will definitely complete their contract... these are decision which the club makes. But yes, I have a year left to run on my current contract and I would like to complete it.
Athletic have traditionally done well in the previous visits to Mestalla...
Our intention is to go there and win the match; but Valencia will be attempting the same as us. Why do you think I consider them as one of our direct rivals when they are 15 points behind us? Their objective is to qualify for the Champions League and right now, we are the team who is sitting in fourth place. They’ll see this match as an opportunity to reduce the distance.
How many points will be needed to finish in fourth place?
Those kinds of calculations are only of use for statistics. Once you start getting near the end of the season you may find yourself in desperate need of points – to avoid relegation, for the Europa League for the Champions League... I would guess somewhere around the 65-point mark but that’s what Valencia ended on last season and Real Sociedad finished on 66.
Has the team met your expectations?
I only hoped that the team would play well and be amongst the top places in the table. When I came on board last year, the team had spent much of the previous season in the lower half of the standings and so to start talking about qualifying for Europe then might have seemed a bit risky. We did believe that we could be amongst the top sides and so in a sense, the team has exceeded our expectations.