Kuko Ziganda will coach his first official game at the San Mamés on Thursday as the Lions will host Dinamo Bucuresti in Europa League action. After drawing 1-1 in the first meeting Athletic will need a strong performance if they are going to advance to the next round of the tournament. The new manager took the time to speak to the media on Wednesday, saying that it will be a very special game for him. He says that coming out onto the pitch in front of the Athletic fans is an incomparable feeling.
“My intention is to find something special in every game we play. Basil was my first as the coach, In Bucharest was my first official match. Next will be my first at the San Mamés. If I’m honest, I want to find something special in every game we play. I have that tingling, that desire to go down the tunnel and listen to the anthem. The whole thing and the fans are incomparable to me. I am going to have the fortune, speaking selfishly, to live it and feel it and enjoy it.”
Ziganda admitted that he does have a specific plan for Thursday’s match, but knows that things can change in football. He recognizes that Dinamo is no easy opponent and that the Basques must be at their best to advance.
“We have a game plan for the match, but this is football and random things can lead you down one road or another. We know it is going to be a tough match and we hope that we can impose our style of play. No opponent is easy at this stage. We believe it will be a similar game to the first meeting. I would like it to develop more like the first half because we played well. In the second they brought on Rivaldinho and he added a lot to their attack. We will try to play in their third of the field which is what our fans demand of us.”
After sitting out the first game, Iñaki Williams will be back in the squad and could provide a vital spark to the team. Ziganda said that he still doesn’t know whether or not the winger will start or be used off the bench after the opponents are tired.
“I’m entertaining the possibility of playing Iñaki from the start, perhaps for only 60 minutes, or bringing him on when players are tired to take advantage of his speed. We know that he can provide a lot. I like how the team plays, how they defend the club and have adapted to the style. That is the bonus of my position because I already knew most of the players. They have become accustomed to playing in Europe. They are very excited and love the dynamics of playing during the week. We will give our all to continue in this tournament.”
In closing Ziganda revealed that Iago Herrerin will once again start for Athletic Club. He also admitted that signing any new players will be difficult and that he is very happy with the current squad and the quality of the players coming up from the reserve team, such as Inigo Cordoba and Unai Nunez.
“Iago [Herrerin] is going to play. Kepa [Arrizabalaga] is also available and doing well, but Iago has played the preseason. Kepa will play on Saturday. Will I alternate one for league and cup? We will see. I have no set role for the goalkeepers. We will always leave the door open for things to happen. Will there be any signings? It’s true that it is very complicated, but we haven’t closed the door lest there be a surprise. Many times you [the media] know just as much as I do. The market is very limited and it is not easy to sign players who will improve the team. If no signings happens, we will stay with the team we have and those who have risen from the reserves.”
This will be the fourth consecutive season that Athletic will be participating in European competition. It has become expected of the Lions which makes Thursday’s match so important. They do hold the ever-important away goal which means if they can hold Dinamo scoreless they would advance. However, if the Romanians get on the scoresheet Athletic will need to win to book their passage through. The Basques have been in dominant form at the San Mamés in recent seasons and fans are hoping that the streak will continue.