Iker Muniain “We Can Beat Barcelona, We’ve Shown That In Recent Seasons”
Athletic are currently preparing for Sunday’s La Liga match against Barcelona in what will be a very important fixture. On Thursday night Iker Muniain joined the Fuera de Juego show to discuss the game and made it clear that the team has all the confidence in the world despite coming off a loss to Real Sociedad in the Basque Derby last weekend.
“It is a difficult match, but we are going into it with great enthusiasm and hope. We will try to take advantage of playing at home. We can beat Barcelona. We’ve shown that in other seasons. Yesterday I saw the Barça Madrid match and I was aware of whether Messi played or not. It is something that interests us and we believe that he will play on Sunday. It’s true that they are a very difficult team to beat, but we will try to take advantage of our great form in spite of the Derby defeat.”
Muniain went on to explain some of the issues that led to the loss against La Real, saying that it left the team with negative feelings. However, the Lions know what they must do to get a better result and they will have the chance to turn things back around against Barcelona.
“The game at the Anoeta didn’t leave us with good feelings. Defeats always leave a bad taste in your mouth, especially a Derby. The game we were preparing for didn’t come out, but we are not broken. We are full of confidence. There were several things missing in the Derby. We were not strong with the ball, nor with our pressure, and we didn’t follow the same line that we had shown in previous weeks.”
Before the Derby defeat Athletic had climbed out of the relegation zone but they now find themselves just three points clear. Still, there is no denying the improvement that the team has made under manager Gaizka Garitano and Muniain said that the results prove that Athletic have been much better.
“I hope we don’t have to fight for permanence until the end o fate season. I hope we can take off from this area. There are many teams in this place, but we are three points above and that’s a short distance. We were half sunk and Gairtano has managed to get us out of there. He has given fresh air to the team, has the team and fans connected, and transmits somethings else to us. The results support that.”
Turning the attention to his teammates, Muniain praised his good friend Iñaki Williams for winning the La Liga Player of the Month award for January. He’s happy to see the striker playing well despite so many people doubting his ability to lead the attack. It’s been difficult not having Aritz Aduriz available but the veteran is expected back in around a month and Muniain is excited that Kenan Kodro joined the squad on the final day of the transfer window.
“Iñaki is very good and I’m glad that he won this month’s award. Some people have questioned him a lot about playing as the 9 and he has been able to vindicate himself. He’s played some magnificent matches. It’s complicated having a player like Aduriz. I wish we could have him available. He’s a player who brings you a lot of things. He’s 38 years old, but he looks good and has the ambition that characterizes him. He’s essential for the team. I’ve played with Kenan Kodro in the lower levels of Euskadi. I’ve seen him with a good finish and positioning. When he drops to receive the ball he can hold up play well. It was a surprise but he’s very complete.”
As always, Muniain was asked about his decision to sign a contract renewal with Athletic that doesn’t contain a release clause. He once again admitted that the idea first started when he heard former President Josu Urrutia discuss that dream and the 26-year-old was happy to make it a reality, recognizing the significance it carries for the club and players to follow.
“At the time I heard Urrutia say that his dream would be for Athletic players to sign without a clause and I remembered that. I told my agent I wanted to do it when I had to renew. It’s an important renewals for me, the club, and the fans. I am very happy because there are other teammates who chose this type of renewal without clause. I hope we keep adding players. I hope this Board can do as well as Urrutia. They were magnificent years. What they did sets the bar high but hopefully the current Board can match or improve it.”
With the return of Raúl García, who is finally healthy again, Garitano will have to decide whether to keep Muniain in the midfield or move him back to the wing. “Where I feel most comfortable and have better performances is when I am near the area, playing between the lines”, Muniain said. “But players must adapt to where the Mister puts you. If I play on the wing I’ll be happy there too.” The most important thing for the Captain is being on the field and having the opportunity to help the team be successful.