Athletic Club will face off with Deportivo Alaves on Saturday in the final of the Basque Country Cup. However, all eyes are fixed on Thursday’s trip to Greece when the Lions will play the first leg of their Europa League knock-out tie against Panathinaikos. Following Friday’s training session, winger Iñaki Williams took the time to speak to the press and said that if the Basques play their style of football it will be really difficult to not bring a good result back home for the second leg.
“We are going to go into the match with a lot of ambition and get a good result to bring back to the San Mamés. If we are 100% it will be difficult for us to not get a good result. We cannot let ourselves be intimidated by the environment and atmosphere. We know what we are capable of, we have to play our football. They are a great team, that is why they are here, but we know ourselves.”
The 23-year-old was also asked about new manager Kuko Ziganda, who actually coached him while both were at Bilbao Athletic. Iñaki said that he has learned a lot from the manager and that Ziganda’s ambition is rubbing off on the players.
“With Kuko the expectations are different. He is very ambitious. Kuko is always pushing us to reach our goals and improve. On Thursday we will have a great opportunity. I have learned a lot from Kuko. He is different from Ernesto because he’s more vocal and asks us questions. Kuko is giving me the confidence this preseason to play as the 9. I feel very comfortable there, but our reference is Aritz [Aduriz] who has scored a lot of goals. When I am called upon I will work hard and try to score goals.”
Iñaki and Kepa Arrizabalaga have had a shorter preseason than their teammates due to playing with Spain’s U21 team this summer. However, Williams says that the pair are ready to contribute and that competition in the squad makes everyone better.
“I am doing very well. For myself and Kepa [Arrizabala] it was a shorter preseason but we are already in the rhythm with out teammates. We are ready to play and are available to the Mister. I haven’t set any goals for myself, but I’m hoping to score more goals than last season. All competition is good for the group, it demands more out of us all. Susaeta is a great player and he’s doing very well.”
In closing, the Lezama product was once again asked about the interest he is receiving from clubs in England, Germany, and Italy. As has been the case lately, Iñaki was quick to make it clear that he is happy at Athletic where his teammates are friends and that he has no plans of leaving his boyhood club.
“I’m very calm and I’m where I want to be. Here. In the locker room we are more than teammates, we are friends. I’m not thinking about a change of scenery. I can say that clubs showing interest is flattering, but I’m focused on Athletic and Thursday’s game. It is my goal to improve every day and play better every game. I want the fans who come to the San Mamés to have joy when I play.”
Iñaki Williams is becoming quite the talisman at Athletic Club. His joyful personality, humble upbringing, and passion for the club has endeared him to the fans and he has said multiple times that he wants to become a legend at the San Mamés. This season he will be hoping to score more goals and improve as a forward and it all begins with Thursday’s trip to Greece. Athletic Club wants to make another deep run in the Europa League and to do that they will have to conquer Panathinaikos.