The most interesting topic of discussion surround Athletic Club this summer has been the emergence of Mikel Vesga. After a tremendously successful loan spell with Sporting Gijon last year, the midfielder has been in Kuko Ziganda’s starting lineup for both of Athletic’s matches against Dinamo Bucuresti. It now appears that he has overtaken Mikel San Jose as Beñat’s partner which has fans and pundits talking. Following Saturday’s 3-1 loss to Liverpool in Dublin, San Jose spoke to the media and was quick to admit that he has to work harder if he wants to play regular minutes.
“The good thing about the coach is that he puts on the field whoever is playing the best so the team will always be at the best level. Maybe I haven’t enjoyed as many minutes in official matches so far, but that is the Mister’s decision. I’m very calm. At times I was enjoying more minutes as a starter and now I’m not, but we are all here to help make the team better. I have to work hard to prove that I deserve more minutes and to play more. Vesga? We are different players. We are similar in certain aspects, but different in others. I could also play in defense. It is a position that I am familiar and comfortable with. If the Mister wants me there I will do it with complete comfort. My goal is to help the team.”
From there San Jose discussed the match against Liverpool, saying that the team has to take away the positives against such a strong opponent. He said it was a nice game for everyone who was able to be involved.
“It was a nice game for everyone that was able to play. We know that they are a great team and they showed it. In the first half, especially the first thirty minutes, we had to run a lot and they dominated possession. From there we were able to do a little more and finish the half well. In the second, they got ahead fairly quickly and we couldn’t turn it around. It was a great effort from the team and helped us prepare, which is the most important thing. It’s always painful when you lose, but we have positive feelings from the match. Against a team like this you have to look at the positives.”
After defeating Dinamo Bucuresti 4-1 on aggregate, the Lions will now take on Panathinaikos in the knock-out round of the Europa League. San Jose has warned that no opponent is easy at this point and that the Basques can’t simply rely on winning the tie at the San Mamés.
“Panathinaikos is a tough opponent, but everyone is tough at this stage. There is no easy rival now. Perhaps they are the team with the biggest name that we could have been drawn again. It’s true that they haven’t done so well in their league in recent years, but they are still a very dangerous opponent. We are facing a great rival and it will not be easy. Either we give our best or we are out of the tournament. Over time we are realizing that playing the second leg at home isn’t always important. Sometimes you can slip up in the first game because you are thinking about the second one at the San Mamés. We know that we are strong at home but that doesn’t guarantee anything. Still, it is great to play at home and we know that we will always have our fans pushing us. We must win both games.”
In closing, the midfielder stated that the new manager has been able to see the whole team this summer and now it is up to him to decide who plays. All-in-all the sensations around the team have been good, but they know they have another must-win tie coming up with Panathinaikos.
“Kuko said that he wanted to see everyone in preseason and now he has. We have prepared well in every game and arrived at a good time [to face Dinamo]. Everything from the team to the coach, the games, daily training, the system, everything has been nice. We have demonstrated our level already and now we have another tie that we cannot fail. ”
Before traveling to Greece for the first leg against Panathinaikos, Athletic will first take on Deportivo Alaves this Saturday in the Basque Cup final. This will serve as the team’s last summer match before the real season kicks off in full force. Being the last game of the preseason it will be interesting to see who Kuko Ziganda selects. He could elect to give his starters a run out or get one last look at some fringe players. Whoever plays, it is going to be a very special game for both clubs involved.