Athletic Club are busy preparing for the return leg of their Europa League qualifier against Dinamo Bucuresti and will need a strong performance. Luckily, the Lions will be hosting this second meeting which could play a big role in the outcome. They also have an important away goal after the first meeting ended in a 1-1 draw. With Yeray out, Xabi Etxeita started in defense beside Aymeric Laporte and may once again do so this week. The 29-year-old spoke with the media following Monday’s training session and said that he is very happy with the confidence that Kuko Ziganda has placed in him.
“At the moment things are going well for me. I am doing very well physically and have not had any mishaps or injured. I am happy for the confidence that the coach has placed in me. When there is a change of coach, we all come with the illusion to improve more and earn more minutes. For me, I have started this year with a lot of enthusiasm and desire. My ambition is to earn a regular place again. There are many of us who can play in my position, but it is the coach who will decide. He has several to choose from and that is good for the team. Nunez and Cordoba are working hard. They are competing very well and are looking forward to demonstrating their qualities. They can help the team a lot.”
Etxeita was also asked how things are under Ziganda, to which he answered that most of the system and training sessions are similar. He did admit that there is more of a focus on defending which seems to be helping the team in a big way.
“With Kuko most things are similar to Valverde. We do work a little more on defensive aspects of the game. During this game when we are attacking we will have to be attentive to the player that starts the transition for Dinamo. But if we focus more on ourselves we can win the game. The goal I assisted to Laporte in the first leg? It was a play that we had practiced. We are focusing a lot more on strategy.”
In closing, Etxeita made it clear that Athletic must be at their best in Thursday’s meeting. He recognized that the Lions have been very strong at the San Mames over the last few years, but that they cannot take that for granted.
“This tie is very important. We have to reinforce the work of last year and qualify for the group stage. Last year and others we were also in situations like these. We have a strong team, a great strategy, and our intention is to advance. We respect our opponent, but our goal is to win. In the last few years we have been very strong at home, but you can’t speculate or assume that. We always look for energy and we have that at the San Mames.”
Athletic will have Iñaki Williams back in the lineup on Thursday. The winger missed the first match because he had just returned from summer vacation, but Ziganda has already revealed that he will be in the squad. Iñaki’s spark could be just the added dimension to help the Basques earn a big victory at home. If they do advance, Athletic will play one more two-legged round in order to make it into the Europa League group stage.