In just two days Athletic Club will travel to Germany to face off with Hertha Berlin in the first game of the Europa League group stage. Hertha is viewed as the strongest opponent in Athletic’s group and the Lions know full well just how important it will be to get good results on the road. Following Tuesday’s training session, Iñigo Lekue spoke to the media and said that the goal is to start off the group stage with a win away from home so that they can continue earning points at the San Mamés.
“The goal is to start the group stage by winning in Berlin. They are a strong team and we are starting away from the San Mamés, but that is what we are going to do. They are organized, strong, and have fast young players. We want to start out strong. The Europa League is the goal that we have set for ourselves this year. We are very excited and looking forward to the game. This team is capable of winning there and that is what we are going to do. The intention is to start strong away from home and continue getting good results when we return to Bilbao.”
The right-back was also asked about the arrival of Ander Capa next season, to which he responded that he is only thinking of playing his absolute best this year. He believes that competition in the team is a good thing and will make everyone better. In the end, Lekue believes that Athletic has been able to adapt to every game this year and have set their sights on the Europa League title.
“Regardless of who comes, I want to secure myself this season. I’ve been with the first team for three years and I hope to continue growing and getting better. I feel that I am doing well and I want to continue like this. I have high hopes for this season. The rotations are good for everyone. The competition is good and makes you more attentive and stronger. So far we haven’t conceded a goal in the league, which makes the defense proud and is helping the team earn points. There is still much room for improvement and we have the time to get better. I’ve seen this team able to adapt to the rhythm of every game and everyone is stepping up when called on.”
It will be interesting to see who starts for Athletic Club in Thursday’s match. Xabi Etxeita and Mikel Vesga were left out of the weekend match against Girona, which has led many to believe that they will start against Hertha Berlin. Still, Lekue also started on Sunday with Oscar De Marcos still injured so Kuko Ziganda could choose to bring Eneko Bóveda into the lineup. Only time will tell what moves are made, but the Lions will feature a strong starting lineup that will be looking to take all three points in Germany.