On Sunday Athletic will return from international break when they will host newly promoted Girona at the San Mamés. The Lions have been busy at work preparing for the game and are hoping to pick up another vital three points to continue their strong start to the season. Following training on Wednesday morning, defender Xabi Etxeita spoke to the media and was quick to praise the form of the defense, especially Unai Nuñez. He also said that he isn’t thinking about his contract renewal at the moment and just wants to focus on playing his best right now.
“We fulfilled our goal to qualify for the group stage in Europe and we have four points in the League. We are improving gradually and our form is ascending. On a personal level, I’m happy. I have contributed what I could and the defense has done well. Unai Nuñez has been very good in the games that he has played. He brings a lot to the team and is competition for me, which is good for the team. My contract expiring? The truth is that I am calm about it. We have just started the season and the year is very long. I just need to do my best work.”
Etxeita recognized that Girona have played well in their first two La Liga matches and that they will not be an easy opponent. He said that playing against Gorka Iraizoz will be different and that he hopes Aritz Aduriz will be available after missing training with lower back pain.
“Girona are one of the best from the Segunda. In two games that have played well in the Primera, with good football and good results. They want to have the ball and have a clear system. We are eager to play at home. We will be lining up against Gorka who has played so many games for Athletic. It will be different, but we have to forget all of that and try to score goals on him. He [Aduriz] is an important player for us. I do not know if he will be able to play against Girona, but I think it is possible.”
In closing, Etxeita was asked about his experience so far under new manager Kuko Ziganda. The 29-year-old is happy to be playing so many games to start the season and says that the Mister is very focused on playing great defense. Everyone is getting the chance to play and that is great for the team as a whole.
“I have played more games at the beginning of the season and I feel very comfortable in Kuko’s system. Each manager has his own ideas and are different. I am happy with the work. Everyone wants to improve and is trying to get better. We are all plugged in and we will all have chances to help the team, which is a good thing. With Kuko we are putting a lot of emphasis on the defensive part of the game, but also the offense as well. We will not play 7 matches in 22 days. We have great desire and we like to compete. These will be a stretch of important games for us.”
Athletic currently sit tied for fourth place in the La Liga table with four points and want to keep their strong start going with another three points on Sunday. Following the game against Girona, the Lions will travel to Germany on Thursday for their first Europa League group stage match which will see them face off with Hertha Berlin. With 7 games in 22 days, Kuko Ziganda’s rotational policy will once again be put to the test.