Athletic Club goalkeeper Julen Agirrezabla promised the Lions will not be lacking in motiviation or enthusiasm when they take on Segunda RFEF side UD Alzira this Sunday (21:00 CET) in the first round of the 2022/23 Copa.
Los Rojiblancos make their bow in this year's competition against a relative unknown, as Valencian outfit Alzira have only participated in the Copa on two occasions before.
The 21-year-old shotstopper warned that Athletic cannot afford to take their opponents for granted, stating it was a "life or death fixture" while echoing Ernesto Valverde's words that Los Leones "have a lot to lose".
Julen said: "We know how important this competition is for Athletic Club and we've done well in recent years. It's true we haven't made that final step and, although that hurts, we have to get stuck in again. We're very excited
"With this format [single-legged ties], playing out lower-ranked sides at their home ground can make things very difficult. If we give a solid performance, both in defence and in attack, we'll have a good chance of going through to the next round."
With Unai Simón holding on to the no.1 spot, the 21-year-old is yet to make an appearance in official competition this season. However, he understands "competition for places is high" and is willing to wait for his moment.
"We all want to play as much as possible and my wish is to get minutes at Athletic. I've never considered leaving," he said.
"The manager hasn't said anything to me about if I'll play this Sunday. If I get picked, I'll do my best to help the team get through to the next round.
"Athletic has a reputation for producing good goalkeepers and this is proving to be true. Competition for places is high, but I'm going to keep training hard, keep improving and make sure I'm ready to play in any match.
"The atmosphere between the keepers here is very good and this can help me improve as a goalkeeper and as a person. I haven't played for a while, since pre-season, and I had back-to-back injuries, so all the minutes I can get will help my performance and confidence."
After the Copa clash, the 2022 World Cup break will be upon us. The squad will rest for a few days before starting preparations for the second half of the season.
Agirrezabala admitted it is a bit of a strange occurrence but said the team will try to make the most of it by "switching off and recharging their batteries".
He added: "We've been doing things well. The last few away games were difficult for us, but things are going well at home. The match against Real Valladolid the other day was a complete performance and we're going into the break on a high."
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