Iñaki Williams “If We Defend Well We Can Have All Three Points”
It’s been 15 years since Athletic last won a game at Santiago Bernabéu but there is confidence that the team could change that on Sunday. The Lions will travel to face Real Madrid in one of the most difficult games of the season and the players believe they can surprise Los Blancos. Speaking with reporters during the team’s visit to IMQ on Friday, Iñaki Williams made it clear that Athletic have no fear.
“We are aware that they are in a good dynamic, that they are coming from games where they’ve done things well. They had opportunities to win El Clásico, but we are also good. We have a defense that is very solid, we play as a team, we will have our opportunities, and I think we can take advantage of them. If we do things well we will be closer to getting a good result there.”
Williams went on to explain that Real Madrid have left opponents play their style of football this season and that Athletic will look to do just that. The Basques have build their success on strong defending and that could be the key to returning home with at least one point.
“They let opponents play so we will try to impose our style. We’ll put our cards on the table and try to take advantage of our chances. If we defend well we can have all three points. Defenders and attackers have to be alert because you know that VAR is there and that you can be called for a hand or foul at any time. You can’t make mistakes. They look at everything with a magnifying glass.”
Playing at the Bernabéu fills Williams with excitement because he knows he will be seen by millions, though the most important thing to the forward is winning in Madrid. The 25-year-old highlighted set-pieces and corners as an area where Athletic can hurt Real Madrid and says the team has to improve in those areas.
“This game motivates us a lot. I really want to play there and win the last game of the year. I’m excited to play there. You know that many people will be watching the game around the world and I feel like I have arrived. Set pieces are a facet that teams have feared when playing us and that’s something we must recover because they (set-pieces) are very important in La Liga.”
Eden Hazard will miss the game due to injury while several other Real Madrid will be sidelined as well. “Hazard is one of the best players in the world and it’s fortunate for us that he won’t play, but we have to focus on ourselves,” said Williams. “We have to approach the game well, to go for them with pressure on their side of the field, and make the most of our chances.”
Iñaki Williams recently celebrated the five year anniversary of his first team debut and it still feels like it just happened yesterday. “I have been living a dream for five years,” he said with a smile. “My greatest hope when I arrived was to be part of the first team and I’m fulfilling that dream every day. I have already played 136 consecutive games and I have to thank my genetics and all the coaches that I’ve had. I want to keep it up and try to beat the La Liga record.”
Before the press conference the draw for the second round of the Copa del Rey was held. Athletic were matched against fellow Bizkaian club Sestao River which has the fans and Williams very excited.
“It’s special. It will be a very nice match, it’s a Basque Derby. It has to be very special for them as well. I have former teammates there and it will be nice to see them. I like that it will be a game close to home. I don’t like riding on planes very much and it’s even better because it’s in Sestao. There will be a great atmosphere. It’s going to be a special weekend and I’m sure it will be a beautiful Derby.”
Williams admitted that he would have preferred to play the Cup game at home, but it will be held at Las Llanas. The forward also admitted that there’s already been jokes with former Basconia teammates Victor Monteiro about the upcoming fixture.
“Playing at San Mamés would be better. Cup games at San Mamés are amazing for us and it’s better because of the pace of the game and because we are made for that field. Yes, Monteiro sent me a little message and I really want to see him face to face. Hopefully he goes home a little sad.”
While the Bizkaia Derby against Sestao River will be a historic game, Athletic must keep their focus on Real Madrid. Following Sunday’s match at the Santiago Bernabéu the team will have some time off for Christmas but will return to action on 3 January when they travel to face off with Sevilla in what will be yet another difficult trip away from home.