In just two days Athletic Club will play their first home game of the season as they will host Dinamo Bucuresti in the second leg of their Europa League qualifier. After a 1-1 draw in the first meeting, the Lions need a good result if they are going to advance to the next stage. Luckily, they do have an important away goal, but that doesn’t mean Thursday’s match will be easy. Aritz Aduriz spoke to the media following Tuesday’s training session and recounted the first meeting while also praising the support that the team receives at the San Mamés.
“We got ahead and had plenty of possession, but we were not as cohesive as we would have liked. They are an opponent that you have to take seriously. You have to do the right things to move on and you can’t make mistakes. We have to be prepared for any situation and playing in front of our fans at the San Mamés makes us stronger. We will have a lot of support from them and we have to dominate the game. We are not a team that speculates a lot. We take every match for what it is and try to play the best possible to win each game. We know that this is an elimination game so that is always tough.”
Aduriz went on to say that he is doing very well and that the team is adapting to Kuko Ziganda’s style of football. He says that at his age he can’t think about the future, but he does want to continue playing as long as he feels that he is able to do so.
“I am doing well considering that we are just starting the season. It is difficult to be 100%, but I see myself at the level where I can compete at the fullest. We are gradually adapting to the new field, the new coaching staff, and the types of training sessions. I am very satisfied with the work that we are doing. When you go into seasons at this age it isn’t good to look long term, but day-to-day instead. This year I will be the same player. I am enjoying myself a lot and doing well. I will try to give my maximum performance for Athletic as long as I continue to feel this way.”
The 36-year-old admitted that last preseason was difficult because he had some injury problems that he was dealing with. This time he is completely healthy and enjoying the freedom to train every single day. Ziganda’s new system is similar to that of Ernesto Valverde, but the players are hoping that it will lead to more success this year.
“Last summer was an atypical preseason because I started with some physical problems and that hindered me. Being able to start working out with everyone makes things easier. He knows us all and he’s practically already coached everyone in the team. We will follow the same dynamic, but it has many different nuances. We are working very hard and we hope that all this word will translate into good results and that Thursday’s match will be just the beginning.”
In closing, Aduriz shrugged off the idea that Athletic will be favorites on Thursday. Every opponent in the Europa League is difficult and the Lions can’t afford to make any mistakes. He says that the players and the fans love the Europa League because it is a different competition to what they face domestically.
“We respect our opponent very much. In Europe, every match is a maximum difficulty. We can’t afford to make mistakes because it will cost us. Of course the Europa League generated excitement because it is a wonderful goal and illusion. Both we and the fans enjoy this competition and it is much more different than the League or Cup. It is a difficult tournament and we have to give 100% to make is as special as possible. The new field? Give the little time that has passed, the new field looks good. When it has been recently changed you usually noticed rough patches. It seems like it will hold up well to everything. We are very satisfied and happy with it.”
Athletic will have one special weapons that they did not have in the first meeting. After sitting out last week due to the fact that he had just returned from summer vacation, Iñaki Williams will be back in the squad and looking to provide a special spark. Ziganda’s starting lineup should be relatively unchanged, with Williams likely the only new face in the team. Athletic has been very difficult to beat at the San Mamés over the last few years and the fans are hoping that that will continue this week.