Athletic will begin their Europa League group stage on Thursday when they will face off with Hertha Berlin in Germany. The Lions have been looking forward to this game for a while and believe they have what it takes to make another deep run in the tournament. Following Wednesday’s training session, manager Kuko Ziganda spoke to the media and said that he doesn’t expect to see an open match because of the way that Hertha likes to play. He believes both teams are very equal and that it will take something special to get a good result.
“The position they have in the Bundesliga already tells us what we will face. They are equal and not a team that likes to play open matches. They keep the values of German football by being physically and strategic. They are strong in the air, even their wingers are capable of scoring goals that way. We are two very solid and compact teams so it will be a very even game and the toughest will take the points. It’s true that random things can always happen, but I expect to see an even game and we will have to be very insistent. It won’t be an open match so I think it will be something different from the game against Eibar.”
At one point Ziganda was asked by a German journalist about Athletic Club’s Basque-only policy. The manager was quick to point out that it is something that the Lions feel very strongly about and that they see it as an advantage. They want to introduce themselves to Europe through their philosophy.
“We always have things to improve, but we must also recognize that we have done some things very well and that is why we have gotten good results. As far as our transfer policy, we want to make this special condition our philosophy. It is something that we fully believe in and it is our way of showing ourselves in Europe with a special character. Our philosophy is the way we have to introduce ourselves in Europe and it is a pride for us. We consider it an advantage.”
Last season Athletic was horrendous away from the San Mamés and the players are hoping to avoid that this time around. So far they haven’t been beaten in seven total games this year and are off to one of the best starts in club history. With this being the most difficult away match of the group, on paper, earning three points would go a long way to ensuring that the Basque giants book their place in the next round of the Europa League.