EUROPA LEAGUE | ATHLETIC CLUB
Muniain, unruffled by Napoli test
The Athletic Club striker warned that the team must be extra careful with their distribution in the centre of the park against the Italians.
Iker Muniain faced the media in the Lezama press room after training on Sunday and appeared in optimistic mood about the team’s chances in this week’s Champions League Play-Off first leg against Napoli.
How’s the team faring ahead of such a complicated Champions League tie?
We can’t wait for the day to arrive. We’ve waited a long time for this and we have been preparing for this game for a while. We have played a lot of pre-season games and we are all excited by the prospect of this meeting with Napoli.
For a young player as yourself, you have quite a lot of experience in European competition. What would playing in the Champions League mean to you?
It would mean everything – especially after the fantastic season we enjoyed last year. We’re up against an experienced side but we know where our strengths lie and we have beaten some of Europe’s top sides in the past. We’ll be travelling to Italy without any worries; we’ve nothing to be worried about. I think it’s going to a very equally-balanced tie.
Are you prepared to take the game to Napoli and brace yourselves for their counter-attacks?
We’ve watched a couple of videos and they have players who are great on the break. Part of their game is based around that. We have to try to dominate the game like we played last season and make the most of the chances we get. Let’s hope we can put in a good performance over there and have an advantage to take to San Mamés for the return.
On an individual level, what stands out about Napoli?
Just looking at the players they have, they have some incredible players – all of them have played at big clubs. They’re top class players and as a team, they are difficult to beat. We need to try to give them a tough tie and pass through to the next stage.
Will Athletic need to take extra care when passing the ball in midfield?
I think we do need to be extra careful but without letting it affect the way we usually play. We have to be careful in the midfield. Playing the return leg at home is a huge advantage, if we emerge from the first leg still alive, we have a great chance of sentencing the tie at our ground although we cannot allow ourselves to get too over-confident.