The Europa League debut arrives at Sheriff and the Giallorossi manager is back to bite: “Disqualified? I won’t be able to talk to the players, but I will be able to celebrate the goals”
– tiraspol (moldova)
There’s war here just a stone’s throw away. The pain of football, however, in some ways seems just as strong and they too never subside. This is why José Mourinho begins his adventure in the Europa League by remembering the last act, the defeat against Sevilla. That after the match cost him a four-match ban. Yet, the spirit seems the same as in May. “It’s a different season, but I will continue to say – and I will do so until the last day of my career and even beyond – that we didn’t lose the final in Budapest. And I will say it every time I talk about that match.”
With these premises it is obvious that Roma are ambitious. “We’re starting from scratch. The goal is to qualify for the next phase. Last year we started with a defeat which created difficulties for us in qualifying, forcing us to then play the playoff against a Champions League team, which is not easy for a team like ours which has so many commitments during the season. It would be important to win the group. We have respect for the Sheriff. Two years ago we lost in Bodo 6-1 a match that should have been won, we lost the first of the group last year in Ludogorets and we know that it is never easy to play in Europe, especially away. We will have against the opponent, the public, a special motivation for a team whose goal is to qualify for the next phase. We are also playing against history because they did incredible things in the Champions League 2-3 years ago.” The Portuguese’s absence from the bench will be an additional problem. “I won’t be close to the team and I can’t communicate. During the match I trust the players and the staff, who know how I think. I can’t talk to the team but I can celebrate the goals.”
It is no mystery that Roma’s goal for the season is to qualify for the Champions League, and this team has two paths to get there. The championship or the Europa League is easier? “I honestly don’t know. Last year we all had the feeling that it could be done both through the championship and through Europe. I think that on the thirtieth day of the championship we were third and in the quarter-finals of the Europa League. We had injuries as important as those of Dybala and Smalling, we were in difficulty and lost a few games in the league that we wouldn’t have lost under normal conditions. We reached a difficult final against a team with the same ambitions as us. But honestly, I don’t know, I’m there strong teams in Italy and in the Europa League such as Brighton, Liverpool, Bayer Leverkusen and Atalanta. I can’t say it and I can’t choose a competition, for me the thought is always the next match and today for us the Europa League match is more important”.
The closing credits are for Karsdorp, who explains his argument with Mourinho last January: “Many things happen in football, it’s life. Some are positive and some are negative, but that’s a thing of the past. I spoke to the manager, I just want to play and move forward. I don’t want to say many things on this topic, it’s part of the past. I’m ready to play again. I have a contract until 2025, I want to fight for the shirt and for the club, which is why I didn’t leave. We play to win, the goal is to move forward and not stop.”
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