When Luis Enrique gave his last squad for the Spanish team's matches against Greece, Georgia and Kosovo, many were surprised by the absence of Mikel Merino (Pamplona, 24 years old) . In San Sebastián, however, the fact that his reference midfielder did not appear in the coach's plans was the best news that could come from Las Rozas. The Navarrese footballer, a key player in Real Sociedad, would thus have more time to prepare for the Cup final this Saturday. Also, Imanol had a specific plan for him. After the game against Barça he ended up with back pain. The trip with the Red would have been a setback for the Real, which has had him between cottons.
Bilbao prays to San Mamés
"Football belongs to the footballers, the technicians only help"
When forces fail, Mikel is left one more race; when you have to put your foot in, there is the Navarrese to do it. If you have to push towards the rival area, you always volunteer. He likes to be in the fight, a job that does not hide its technical foundations. He is a long-distance midfielder, from area to area , with central defense resources and central forward notes. This season he has scored two goals and has given four assists. In addition, due to his physique, he is capable of winning many duels bypassing.
When he arrived at Real he awoke many doubts after his time at Newcastle and Borussia Dortmund, although Roberto Olabe saw his signing clearly, something he did not contemplate from In the same way —a bad bet—, Athletic's technical secretariat, which after giving it many turns ended up ruling out the arrival of the footballer born in Pamplona. Like his countryman Iker Muniain (28 years old) , who has been with Athletic for twelve seasons and has once again been one of the pieces on which Marcelino García relies since he arrived at the rojiblanco club. They are from the same city, although Merino's sporting life has always been linked to Osasuna, the team in which his father Miguel played, and Muniain's to Chantrea, an agreed Athletic team, which he arrived at when he was just 13 years old. The precocious footballer, who has been in Bilbao for more years than in Pamplona , was already training with Joaquín Caparrós when Athletic reached the 2009 Cup final, and suffered defeats in 2012 (European Cup and League), and 2015. Already He knows what a final is, he has plenty of experience.
Muniain will meet Merino in midfield, after adding similar numbers on his way to the final. The rojiblanco and the blanquiazul have played six games, and the Athletic captain surpasses the realist in a few minutes (476 to 469). Both have scored a goal, and if the man from Bilbao came into contact with the ball 367 times, the Donostiarra did it 371 times. Muniain's good passes were 256 (87.9%) and Merino's 264 (72.3%) . The duels won by both were almost similar: 58% for the first, 55.6% for the second, although the realist played much more (108) than the rojiblanco (69). Muniain had 13 fouls (3 committed) and Merino, 10. He committed 14.
Final with Navarrese flavor
The data will be reset on Saturday. A final is different. They both know. "Knowing how to manage pressure is essential and we are a young team without much experience at this level, although we have players like Silva or Monreal who have experienced it and can give us peace of mind," says Merino, and Muniain replies: "The team does. he is living everything with great enthusiasm and also with tranquility. Feeling all the support that people offer from their homes, when you go down the street, with messages, but at the same time isolating themselves and focusing on working, on making adjustments that allow us to win that important game. ”
Two women from Pamplona can decide a Cup final with a marked Navarrese flavor —both teams bring together nine: four the Txuriudin , five the rojiblancos—, which divides the Basque Country and even transcends the Government. “I will put on the Athletic shirt,” says the Minister of Foreign Affairs, González Laya, from Tolosa from Gipuzkoa. “I am one of those weirdos. Gipuzkoa is the best place in the world, but I, in football, belong to Athletic. So bizi ametsa [to live the dream, rojiblano motto] and have good luck. ”
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