Valverde aims to stay fifth

Athletic Bilbao's victory over Malaga this weekend has raised Ernesto Valverde's team to fifth in the Primera Division standings – a position the manager hopes to retain.

The win came on the back of a disappointing penalty shootout loss to Sevilla in the Europa League quarter-finals. Valverde hailed his team's spirit in achieving a result that he felt was against the odds, given the intensity of their midweek European fixture. 

"We’re fifth and we came into the match on the back of an exhausting tie," Valverde said after the game.

"This victory is achieved because the team have incredible heart. It was a tight, difficult and tough game. Malaga caused problems for us, but our goal unbalanced the game.

"We're a team who exceed expectations. We like to turn around [bad] situations. Everybody expected that we’d suffer from the defeat [to Sevilla].

"We're used to losing games. When you’re faced a setback like [Thursday's], you have to recover, and what the fans value is how you react to a defeat."

Athletic Bilbao's position in the log is likely to be contested by Celta de Vigo and Sevilla who are one and five points behind Valverde's team respectively.

As far as qualifying for next season's UEFA Champion's Leage is concerned, Athletic Bilbao will need Villareal to suffer a string of poor results; the 4th placed club are a comfortable 6 points ahead of Los Leones.

However, it appears Valverde would be satisfied with another season of Europa Leage football, saying that he is happy with his side's current placement.

"The challenge is to stay fifth," he added. "We’ve yet to host Celta and Sevilla, and we hope to conclude a remarkable season."

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