Athletic Bilbao defender Andoni Iraola is relishing the prospect of the Basque derby against Real Sociedad this weekend.

Marcelo Bielsa's side travel to Anoeta on Saturday to face their fierce local rivals', and the 30-year-old vice-captain admits there has been a different atmosphere around the squad this week.

“I have no doubt that this is a special game,” he told Mundo Deportivo.

“We love playing them, but above all, we love winning. We won there last year, but realise it will be difficult this time because Real have very good support at home. From the outside I think they have a very good team with lots of quality players.

“In matches as emotional as this, it is important, if possible, to start well and get ahead. I think that's the key.”

Iraola also commented on the team's bad start to the season, which has seen them take just five points from the first five games.

“We started badly, but we are trying to recover from that bad start,” said the Spanish international fullback.

“We were in the same position last year, and we recovered. Going forward, we need to win virtually all our games – which we're not doing at the moment.”

Aside from local pride, Iraola believes victory is a must to keep within touching distance of La Liga's frontrunners.

“For us, it is essential. We know that we cannot go any more matches without a victory. We've come from a home game which we failed to win, so we have to get three points on Saturday.

“We know that if we win, then it will give us a major boost in the table, and emotionally. It is a key game.”

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