Athletic Club now know that they fill face off with Dinamo Bucuresti in the third qualifying round of the Europa League. The Romanians were one of the toughest possible opponents and Cuco Ziganda’s side will have to be at their best if they want to advance to the next round. The first game will take place in Bucharest which is notorious for being a very difficult venue. On paper Athletic is being seen as the favorites, but they will have to play the first leg without one of their stars.
When Athletic was knocked out of the Europa League last season by APOEL, the Lions also saw Ander Iturraspe sent off. He wasn’t able to serve his suspension and therefore will miss the first leg against Dinamo Bucuresti on 27 July. It is the only game he will miss, so the midfielder will be available for the return leg at the San Mames.
Luckily for Athletic, Cuco Ziganda has plenty of options to replace Iturraspe. Beñat and Mikel San Jose are still expected to be the starters in the midfield, while the likes of Mikel Rico and Mikel Vesga will provide depth. Vesga was a very important player for Bilbao Athletic under the coaching of Ziganda and many believe that he could play a big role this season. The Lions are also still pushing hard to sign Mikel Merino who would give them another option in front of the defense as would Unai Lopez if he is kept in the first team squad.
Athletic’s draw against Dinamo is definitely a difficult one. The Romanians are a strong club and will be very serious competition for them Basques. With the first leg taking place in less than two weeks, Ziganda only has a limited time to make sure that his players are ready for the clash. Every training session and friendly as absolutely vital at this point. The Lions have hopes of Europa League glory and it all starts with a match in Bucharest, where they lost the final against Atletico Madrid back in 2012.