When APOEL eliminated Athletic Club from the Europa League last season it was a wake-up call. Ever since that day the players have been talking about learning from the experience and using it as something that will make the team better as a whole. On Thursday the Lions will play their first group stage game against Hertha Berlin and the players are focused on not letting last year’s disappointment happen again. On Tuesday Iago Herrerín was a guest on Fuera de Juego and said that beginning the group stage with a victory is extremely important.
“To start the group stage by winning is very important. We do not see ourselves as the favorites to win the group, but we have a team that is capable of going far in any competition. We have shown that. What this team wants is to win a title. We have a thorn stuck in our side in the Europa League and we have been missing that bit of luck. We have not reached the level of play that we want, but we are getting good results.”
Herrerín was also asked about the future of Kepa Arrizabalaga who has yet to sign a contract renewal. He says that the 22-year-old can become one of the best in the game and that the negotiations are not affecting his performance on the field.
“We have to be calm with Kepa’s renewal. The good news is that it isn’t affecting him. We see him playing and training like he always does. He is a great goalkeeper and in the future he could be the very best.”
Athletic’s trip to Germany will, on paper, be the most difficult away game of the group stage. Hertha Berlin is a very strong team and will also be looking for a full three points in their opening match in front of their own fans. Last season the Lions struggled in games away from the San Mamés and are hoping that those problems are all in the past. It has been a historic start under Kuko Ziganda and the Basque giants want to keep the great performances coming.