Fran Escriba has confirmed he was ‘not thinking of Europe’ with his team selection for his Villarreal side against Athletic Bilbao.
Raul Garcia netted the only goal of the game midway through the second half as the Basques climbed to 7th and within four points of fourth-placed Villarreal.
“We played the best team that we thought would win this match,” explained Escriba.
“We were not thinking about our Europa League match on Thursday.
“In the first half we intentionally made things tight and did not attack much – we know these matches tend to be intense and long so you need to be smart.
“We knew more spaces would open up in the second half to lead to more opportunities, and our idea was that our two strikers could give us the edge, but Athletic played well and stopped us.”
Both sides return to Europa League action on Thursday with Athletic Bilbao hosting Sassuolo and Villarreal travelling to FC Zurich.