Iker Muniain “I Always Hope For The Best”
Athletic have enjoyed a success 2019 and with 2020 just around the corner the team is hoping for even more. As things stand, the Basques currently sit 7th in the La Liga table but could climb even higher this weekend with a win over Sevilla. Athletic will still be without Iker Muniain who is recovering from a hamstring injury, but the captain is very close to returning to training.
“I wanted to take advantage of this moment, since I’m here and on part of the team, to wish a happy new year for 2020 for the whole club, all the Socios, and all the people that make up the Athletic Club family,” Muniain said to begin Monday’s press conference. “I hope that it’s a year with many joy. Zorionak eta urte berri on.”
Muniain took a moment to reflect on the past year where Athletic entered January in a relegation battle but have since become one of La Liga’s best teams. Now in a race for European qualification, Athletic are poised for an even better year and Muniain hopes that the Lions will be able to achieve their goals.
“Seeing the end of the year now, on 30 December, the assessment is positive and very good. A year ago maybe we weren’t so good. We weren’t in a good time, but since the beginning of the year we can be satisfied with the work. Yesterday I saw a statistic that we have been the second best team at home. That’s data to invite optimism. Hopefully we can continue it this year, always with the expectations of improving what we have done and with the ambition that characterizes this club. Hopefully next year we can be talking about how 2020 was even better than 2019.”
Looking ahead, Muniain is optimistic about what the future holds. Athletic have been in good form since Gaizka Garitano took over as manager, though the captains warns that the team can’t take anything for granted.
“I always hope for the best. Everyone strives for beautiful things, thing that are exciting and make fans happy. What I do understand is that you have to fight for everything. As things stand, we must give all possible effort in what we do and from there we will have more options to achieve our objectives.”
On a personal note Muniain admitted that he believes he had a great year. Apart from being given the captain’s armband, he was able to contribute a lot to the team and would have surpassed 400 appearances for the club if not for the hamstring injury.
“I have felt very well this year. I’ve been able to enjoy a lot of moments in football which is how I like to identify myself. As far as scoring, I’m also satisfied to have contributed to the team. If not for the injury I would have already passed 400 games, but sometimes things don’y come as you would like and you have to accept that.”
While Muniain hasn’t been cleared to play yet he is hopeful that it won’t be much longer. A return to training is just around the corner and some reports claim that Muniain could be back on the field in some capacity during next weekend’s Copa del Rey match against Sestao River.
“I’m fine and the recovery is going as we had anticipated. I’m working at a fairly high pace and doing things so that when I return to the team I can keep up. I’m very happy with how the whole process has gone. I won’t be available this weekend, but from there we will see how I feel. I have to continue working day by day and finding those good feelings.”
This isn’t the first muscle injury that Muniain has sustained, but it is one of the most serious ones. For now, the most important thing is that the midfielder makes a full recovery to avoid any setbacks upon his return.
“I haven’t had many muscle injuries and the ones I have had only kept me away for a short time. This time it was more severe than normal. I have to recover fully and in the best way possible so that problems won’t arise when I’m able to be incorporated back into the team.”
On Friday, Athletic will travel to the Ramón Sánchez Pizjuán where the Basques lost to Sevilla on the final day of the season last year which cost them a place in Europe. This time, the team is determined to leave with a better result.
“We had a beautiful opportunity to qualify for Europe there last year and we didn’t. It left us with a bad taste after the good second half of the season that we had and Friday’s game is an opportunity to to get all three points against a direct rival who is also high in the standings. Sevilla have had a great start to the season.”
Although he won’t be able to play, Muniain is looking forward to the game against Sevilla. He’s confident that Athletic can take all three points if they play their football and make the most of their chances.
“It will be a very attractive game. Hopefully we can do things well and the team can continue along the line that we have to this point. We must be faithful to our style, be strong, be a team that is difficult to create chances against and that can do a lot of damage when we go on the attack. If we do those things we can get three very important points.”
A victory against Sevilla, coupled with other favorable results throughout the weekend, would see Athletic rise to 5th in the table and just one point off the last Champions League place. Coming off of an impressive draw against Real Madrid, the Zurigorri are full of confidence and believe that they can take all three points at the Pizjuán where they haven’t won in league play in over nine years.