Athletic are currently enjoying the international break after six intense games to open up the new season. After two weeks off, the Lions will be back in action on 10 September when they will host newly promoted Girona at the San Mamés, followed by a trip to Germany four days later to face off with Hertha Berlin in the first match of the Europa League group stage. Following Wednesday’s training session, midfielder Mikel San Jose spoke to the media about the benefits of the international break and stated that the important thing was qualifying for the group stage.
“This year we had to start early. We had some goals that we needed to accomplish before the break and we had done so. The break comes at a good time because we can recharge our batteries. September is going to be a hard month and we have a long year ahead. With the preseason and games starting earlier everyone expects much more than has been seen. The important thing was to qualify for the group stage in the Europe League and the team has done well.”
San Jose went on to say that it hasn’t been a big change transitioning from Ernesto Valverde to new manager Kuko Ziganda. He praised the manager’s faith in the team as a whole and said that he is happy to be playing regular minutes after a slow start to the new season.
“It has not been a big change as far as the technical staff. We all knew each other, but at first we had to adapt to certain things. Kuko wants us all to be important and to be plugged in. We have played in six official matches and most of us have participated at some point. It shows that he has confidence in the players. I’m happy, we all want to play every minute. At first I had to participate less, but I am happy for the trust and I will work hard to keep growing. The important thing is the team. I am satisfied with what I do on the pitch, but we have to be at our best every game.”
In closing, San Jose had high words of praise for Lezama which has turned out several high quality players over the last few years. The midfielder knows that it is difficult for Athletic to sign new players, but says that he is very happy with the recent promotions and what they have been able to add to the squad. He also said that Kepa Arrizabalaga has been calm over contract negotiations and that the team wants him to stay at Athletic Club.
“We have peace of mind with Lezama. Nuñez, Córdoba, Vesga, Iñaki, Yeray, Kepa…they are all a very clear example of what Lezama can provide for the the first team. It is difficult to sign new players and we are happy with the team. It would be difficult to improve on the players that are being promoted. Kepa is a great goalkeeper. He looks very calm about everything. We don’t have nervousness or doubt. He is a great keeper and we want him to stay here. Yeray is doing very well and he is strong. He conveys positivity and we are looking forward to having him back in the locker room day after day. We are excited to see him back on the field soon. His return would give us tremendous strength and joy.”
Mikel San Jose and Athletic Club will be back in action on 10 September when they will play host to Girona at the San Mamés. The Lions are currently tied for fourth in the La Liga table with four points and it will be important to continue their terrific form at home. Until then, Kuko Ziganda’s team will continue training in hopes of correcting their weakness and strengthening their areas of success before their next match.