Athletic ‘hungry’ to repeat Cup form

Ander Iturraspe says Athletic Bilbao are desperate for a repeat of last season's Cup success, despite a difficult start to the campaign.

The Basque outfit captured the imagination of many in Spain and across Europe on their run to the finals of both the Copa del Rey and the Europa League last season, even if they ultimately lost both.

Despite seeing Javi Martinez depart over the summer, Iturraspe believes Marcelo Bielsa's side have what it takes to do the same again, and perhaps even win some silverware this time.

“It was incredible [last year] and to repeat it will be tremendously difficult,” admitted the 23-year-old at Athletic’s Lezama training base on Thursday.

“But the hunger is there and the necessary conditions are there too. We will do everything possible. We have lost players, but others have come in and will bring something extra.”

Iturraspe also spoke of his personal situation, after a start to the campaign in which he has twice been substituted at half-time by Bielsa and also suffered the indignation of being hauled off midway through the first half of the 5-3 home loss to Betis on the opening day.

“They were totally respectable tactical decisions. If he [Bielsa] decided to send someone else on it was because he thought that player could bring something else to the team,” Iturraspe said, before adding that he is happy to play wherever Athletic’s Argentine Coach sees fit.

“I am used to playing in the ‘No 8 role’, although I am happiest as a ‘No 6’. But if I have to play in central defence, the Coach knows I am available. Besides, it is important that he has options without having to make a substitution.”

Iturraspe also said that teammate Fernando Llorente has not appeared visibly affected by his failure to win a desired move away from San Mames during the summer transfer window.

“He seems OK, as he always does. He is hungry for goals, is in good shape and wants to return to action. If the Coach decides to play him I am convinced he will not make things difficult.”

Tags Bielsa Iturraspe Llorente