To a youth-academy player, a derby is much more than just a match against a fierce rival. Even more so if in your seven years as a member of the Real Sociedad de Fútbol first team you have only played one in the Liga BBVA. Such is the case of Gorka Elustondo (18th March, Beasain, Gipuzkoa), who shared his impressions of the passionate Basque derby which is to be played on Sunday in the Estadio de Anoeta with LFP.es.
LFP.es: How are you all feeling during the week running up to the derby?
Elustondo: We're very excited, above all because of what a derby against Athletic means. It is always a very attractive game and very motivating for both teams. Both the players and the fans are very keen to get underway.
LFP.es: How is your team approaching the match? You seem to be on form with your four consecutive victories.
Elustondo: Yes, above all in the second part before the end of the year. We really finished well. After being knocked out of the Champions League, the team responded really well in the Liga BBVA and that has helped us establish ourselves high up in the table. The team is ambitious and what better than a match like this to get the fans excited?
LFP.es: How are Athletic doing?
Elustondo: They look strong, especially in their new stadium. Valverde has given them a lot of intensity in defence, they really apply pressure and stop their opponent from playing. Those are some of their strengths. We are also aware of the quality they have up front and we will have to be very careful. We have to bring our own intensity.
LFP.es: What is it like to experience a match like that from inside the ropes?
Elustondo: There is a lot of responsibility and a desire to defeat a fierce rival. Always with hard work and order, doing what we know. Sometimes, if you play more with the heart than with the head, it can work against you.
LFP.es: You have to go back to the 1997-98 season to find a derby where Real Sociedad and Athletic were in the battle for a UEFA Champions League spot.
Elustondo: It could be one of the closest derbies in recent years. That means it has all the ingredients necessary for a great spectacle and for the fans to enjoy it.
LFP.es: What is your favourite memory from the history of the Basque derbies?
Elustondo: Last year we won both of them and they were very special, also because of the season we had. Off the pitch, we always remember the 5-0 win in the Anoeta. That moment was one of the most special of my childhood.
LFP.es: Dare you make a prediction?
Elustondo: The three points will stay at home. Let's say 2-0.