‘San Mames is our extra man’

Oscar de Marcos believes home advantage will be crucial for Athletic Bilbao in the Champions League play-off with Napoli.

The score is tied at 1-1 from the first leg against the Serie A side but Athletic have an away goal thanks to Iker Muniain.

De Marcos has told Italian publication Il Mattino that Athletic can’t assume they’re already through, but believes the first-ever sold-out crowd at the new San Mames will help tip the balance.

“The result from the first leg does not count. [Ernesto] Valverde wants the team to be always proactive, especially in front of our own fans,” he said.

“We are a team that relies heavily on the collective. Our extra man is San Mames, where there are the best fans in the world.

“Nothing has been decided, we will put everything into this 90 minutes and it will be a battle.”

De Marcos compared his experience of playing at Napoli to that of San Mames, believing that there are similarities between the two sets of fans.

“At the San Paolo I noticed an atmosphere similar to that in our stadium, but the athletics track has the fans a bit further away,” he revealed.

“I felt a lot of passion, when we arrived at the ground for the game, there were already 30,000 people in the stands. Our fans and those of the Partenopei support their team tirelessly.”

De Marcos is something of a utility man for Los Leones and was pleased to create Muniain’s goal from right-back.

He added that Athletic have closely watched Napoli and believes the danger man is a former Real Madrid forward.

“In recent years I have become accustomed to playing in different roles – against Napoli I took advantage of the gap left by [Lorenzo] Insigne and I was able to feed Muniain in the middle,” he recalled.

“We had studied Napoli and we knew we could come away from the San Paolo with a good result. Now we play at San Mames.

“From Napoli I would remove Gonzalo Higuain – he is a strong and incisive player, I was surprised by his athleticism.”

Tags Napoli Oscar De Marcos