Athletic Club has known for a while now that their season would officially begin on 27 July as they would play the first leg of their Europa League qualifier. On Friday they finally found out who the opponent would be when they were drawn against Romanian giants Dinamo Bucuresti. This was one of the toughest opponents they could have drawn and that means preparations will have to be as serious as ever. Manager Cuco Ziganda gave his thoughts on the draw and said that the team knew they would have to beat someone difficult to advance.
“The draw was not what we all wanted, but it is a field that brings good memories because we played a final there and everyone had a lot of hope. The draw is not going to take us by surprise and I think it is good to play the game in a stadium where we are accustomed to the conditions. We knew we were going to play a rival who would be difficult, we assumed as much and now we are delighted to be able to face Dinamo. We will face the tie as strong as possible and always with a very optimistic mentality. We play the first match away and it seems better to play the second match at home, but know that doesn’t guarantee anything.”
Captain Markel Susaeta also had his say on the draw, remembering the Europa League final defeat to Atletico Madrid back in 2012 which took place in the city of Bucharest. He made it clear that Athletic wants to be back in the final and that means they will have to go through Dinamo to do so.
“Of everyone we could have drawn, this is the most difficult and will start to prepare for the matches immediately. This is a competition that means a lot to us and has given us a lot of joy. We hope to continue competing in it. Everyone says that having the return leg at home is better, but we still need a good result there. Our fans will always be excited at the San Mames. Playing in Bucharest isn’t a fond memory, although yes we did play in a Europa League final which was special. We hope to make it back to the final, but first we have to pass this round.”
The first match will be played in Bucharest on 27 July with the return leg taking place at the San Mames on 3 August. The Lions now have less than two weeks to prepare for the clash so there is no time to waste. Cuco Ziganda is hard at work training his players to understand his systems and concepts and everything will need to be implanted as quickly as possible. Dinamo Bucharest will certainly be no pushover and that is exactly what Athletic Club was expected.