In just two days Athletic Club will be traveling to Athens, Greece for the first leg of their Europa League knock-out tie against Panathinaikos. The Greeks will be a very difficult opponent who is known for their strength at home. Athletic will not only have to overcome their opponents, but also the Apostles Nikolaidis Stadium. Following Tuesday’s training session, Mikel Balenziaga spoke to the media about the upcoming challenge and stated that the Lions are accustomed to matches like this now.
“We have to start strong and quick and try to take control early in the match. We have seen Panathinaikos play and we know what we are going to have in front of us. They have a stadium with a lot of atmosphere and they are a strong club. We are accustomed to this. The first match against Dinamo was also a difficult venue. We know that it will be hot, but we aren’t going to make excuses. In Bucharest there was also high humidity. They are an organized team with experienced players up front. If I had to point out one dangerous player it would be Zeca.”
Balenziaga went on to say that he believes Athletic will advance to the group stage if they play 100%. He also revealed that Kuko Ziganda’s style of play is one where the team wants to control possession and dictate play from the very first whistle.
“If we are at our best and give 100% we are convinced that we will qualify for the group stage. We have go0d feelings, confidence, and believe that the preseason has prepared us to face what is coming. We are happy with our performances and are coming into this game at a good time for us. Ziganda’s style? We want to show our best on the pitch and command possession and control of the game. We go into each game looking for a victory.”
History will be on Athletic’s side during Thursday’s encounter. Panathinaikos have not won a match against a Spanish opponent in their last 14 meetings. Still, playing on the road in Greece is never an easy task and the Lions will have their hands full. Kuko Ziganda has called up his strongest available players and will be looking to earn a good result to bring back to the San Mamés next Thursday for the return leg.