Iker Muniain “We Are Going To Granada With All Our Strength”
In just two days Athletic will play the biggest game of the season thus far. Having defeated Granada 1-0 in the first leg of the Copa del Rey semifinals, the Lions will now travel to Nuevo Estadio de Los Cármenes with hopes of earning a good result and advancing to the final. Captain Iker Muniain addressed the media following Tuesday’s training session and made it clear that the team isn’t taking anything for granted.
“We must not look beyond Thursday. Right now Thursday is our priority and we aren’t wasting time thinking about what can happen next. We are going to Granada with all our strength but it will be a very close match. The experience of having lived situations like this is always good to have. The team is in a very good mood with all the joy that this game brings. We’re strengthened after winning the last game at San Mamés.”
While Athletic may hold a slight advantage, Muniain said that the tie is still very much up in the air. One goal could significantly change the momentum in the second leg and the Basques must be at their best to eliminate Granada on the road.
“The first leg gives us a minimal advantage. We will face a team playing at home and we expect a great atmosphere against us. If we score then they have to get three goals, but if they score an early one then we will be fighting uphill. Whatever happens we will believe until the end, which is what this team has done throughout this journey with very complicated qualifiers. We’ve given our heart and left everything on the field in the previous rounds. We’ll be prepared for everything.”
Athletic are in a curious situation as Gaizka Garitano could field a team to protect the 1-0 lead or go for more goals to kill the tie. If the Lions do play on the attack Muniain believes they have the quality to find the back of the net.
“We have weapons to score goals, to hurt them, and the coach will make the plan. At San Mamés we created many chances and could have scored more goals, but every match is different and we must be ready for everything.”
The dream of reaching the Cup final is very real, though Athletic aren’t looking past Granada. With Iñigo Martinez, Yuri Berchiche, and Iñaki Williams all one booking away from suspension the trio will have to be careful, but without being a liability in the second leg.
“The goal is to win the final, but the first thing is Thursday’s match. They are aware that the most important game is the next one. They will have to manage it, but without going crazy. The important thing is to win on Thursday. This club has always shown its character. These are the matches that every player wants to play, matches that are essentially a final. If we advance we will play a Cup final and compete in the Super Cup.”
Athletic fans have a history of traveling very well to show support in big away fixtures and Muniain expects the same on Thursday night. “We always thank the fans for the effort they make for us and also those who stay at home or aren’t able to travel,” he said. “We tell them to believe and we know we will have their support.”
The captain was also asked about recent statements from Iñaki Williams who revealed that the team has made the decision to leave the field if the forward is racially abused in another game. “It’s something we’ve spoken about internally,” responded Muniain. “Nobody wants the racist insults. They were from a minority and then he had the wonderful treatment from the Tenerife fans. Hopefully it will never happen again.”
Following the important win over Villarreal at the weekend Athletic are full of confidence going into the second leg. Though Dani García will be unavailable, Garitano will still be able to field a very strong lineup and the Zurigorri will be favorites to advance to the final. Only 90 minutes stand between Athletic and the Copa del Rey final.