Athletic Bilbao striker Fernando Llorente believes former teammate Javi Martinez has been difficult to replace at San Mames.
The Basques have had a disappointing start to the season and are currently just two points clear of the relegation zone, but Llorente also feels other players are capable of stepping into Martinez’s shoes after his summer move to Bayern Munich.
“Javi Martinez is an incredible player who gave Athletic a lot and he’s been difficult to replace, although there are great players here who can do a good job, the kind Javi did last year,” said Llorente in an interview given to UEFA’s official website.
Los Leones face Lyon in a Europa League clash at the Gerland Stadium on Thursday and Llorente has nothing but respect for their French opponents.
“Some teams make the competition beautiful and boost its reputation. Lyon are one of them and are Champions League regulars, so we are motivated to beat them and show how we can play.”
Marcelo Bielsa’s men have picked up just one point from the opening two group games, but Llorente insists it is a priority to reach the next round and try to have a good run in the competition like last season.
“We know how long the competition is and we must take each game as it comes. The Europa League was amazing and I have some great memories of it.
“That experience made us grow and mature and I hope that helps us to become stronger and more consistent.
“We reached last year’s final by playing with intensity and without being frightened of opponents that could have been superior. We also didn’t give anything away,” he concluded.