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Mourinho unsure what to expect from new-look Verona

Jose Mourinho held his customary pre-match press conference on Saturday afternoon, ahead of the Serie A meeting with Hellas Verona.

Roma head to the Bentegodi (kick-off: 18:00 CEST) having won all six of their games so far this season - while Hellas will have a new presence in the dugout following the midweek appointment of Igor Tudor.

Here's what Mourinho had to say heading into the game...

Are there two groups within your squad: those who have already got to grips with your philosophy, and those who haven’t?

“No, not at all. It was one game. It would be easy for me to say, after we’ve won 5-1, that we were perfect. But that’s not the road I want to go down with this squad. After every game, we look at what we think we did well and what we think we could improve on. That’s how we create the circumstances in which we can keep getting beter.

“I was not talking about the scoreline, which I didn’t think would be so one-sided, but more from the point of view of the quality of our play and our defensive efforts. At the start of the game, and then again at the beginning of the second half, they had moments where they were in control of the game.”

Do you want to send a message to whoever the next Mayor of Rome will be, in order to speed up the stadium approval process?

“First and foremost, I am a football coach. I do what I like doing and have liked doing for many years and I don’t want to be anything more than that. I want to be a coach with a close bond with his club, with the fans, with the city – of course that’s what I want. But I will always be the coach, first and foremost.

“Clearly, a self-owned stadium brings a lot of positive benefits to a club. I was pleased to read what [current mayor] Virginia Raggi said about the club and the owners. She showed how much respect she has for them. Let’s see what happens in the future. Right now I don’t want to say much more.”

Did Roger Ibanez impress you as a full-back? And what is going on with Gonzalo Villar?

“I really don’t understand this. This happened before the game against Sassuolo as well, when we hardly even spoke about the Sassuolo game – and here as well we have still not talked about [Verona]. It seems like you guys are always looking for something else.

“This is a pre-match press conference, not a post-match press conference. I thought that we would talk more about the next game and less about the past ones. I don’t really know how to answer you.

“Matias Vina and Henrikh Mkhitaryan both have small knocks – but they are slight, and with the quality of our medical department and those in the sports science one, I always expect good news. So, for that reason, I’m expecting the players to be available.

“I don’t understand the question about Villar. Why? Because last year he was a regular starter and this year he isn’t? What do you want me to say? Paulo [Fonseca] had or has a different idea to me, and probably the next coach will have different ideas to me, and perhaps a few players that are set starters under me won’t be with the next person. There’s no issue with Villar. If anything, his problem is that Jordan Veretout and Bryan Cristante are both player really well. But that’s not a bad thing, that’s a really good thing for the team as a whole.

“As for Ibanez, he’s not a full-back and that is very clear. He’s not a full-back that can push high up the pitch, that can put crosses into the middle. He can play in that role in an emergency, but he’ll never be a full-back.”

What are you expecting from Verona tomorrow – they haven’t had long to work with the new coach…

“I don’t like to talk about what is going on at other clubs. They are the ones that need to talk about the decisions they have made. For me, looking on from a distance, I can only say that I am really sorry for my two colleagues who have lost their jobs so soon. But the situations are nothing to do with me and I cannot really say much more than that.

“I am pleased to see Walter Mazzarri back, we came up against each other both in Italy and England. And if Igor Tudor was looking for a way back into Italian football, then he’s found it already and I’m happy for him. Obviously, though, I am sorry for both Eusebio Di Francesco and Fabio Semplici. I hope they are back on a touchline very soon.”

Is your backroom staff, who seem to be very young and often changed, one of the secrets of your success?

“The truth is there is no-one on my staff now who was also on my first coaching staff 20 years ago. But it’s also true that my coaching staff stayed the same for many years in those years between.

“The one who has been with me the longest is Lalin, who I started working with in 2010 at Real Madrid. All the others have changed a lot. Sometimes that was their decision – they wanted to start their own careers – and other times it was mine, to take a coach with different qualities. For example, here in Rome I have two fitness coaches – one to work with the team, one to work with individuals on their recovery. My staff here is really, really good.

“I came here with four men of mine and now there are 14 or 16 of us – because here the guys are good and they are ready to learn how I like to work. Now all of these guys are part of my staff. I arrived here in a small Hyundai with four collaborators, and now we need a minibus to get us anywhere. But that’s important for me: building a coaching staff, building a way of working. And as a group we work really hard together. And we celebrate together too.

“And I am sure when a bad spell arrives we will be even more united. I like working with people who think, who analyse, who are working on ideas 24 hours a day. We call each other at midnight sometimes. I like people who re passionate about the game. And that’s what we have here.”

Have you ever thought about going to a three-man defence? Or, considering the injury issues, have you thought about bringing Davide Santon back into the fold?

“No, I thought about Filippo Tripi, who will be travelling with us. If we have any issues tomorrow, then Tripi completed pre-season with us, he’s worked for us for more than a month and he’s learned how we approach games. He’s a smart boy that can cover a number of roles across the defence. Even in midfield, if we need that too. He doesn’t have much experience, but he’s a big Roma fan and he is smart as a player.

“I haven’t thought about reintegrating anyone. We can play with three at the back or with four. We haven’t played with three so far, but I cannot say that it’s something that will never happen. It’s a possibility. There are a lot of teams that play with three at the back and it can happen that the best way to combat that is to play with three at the back yourself.”

How important in the way you like to play is the pressure applied by your forwards? Could that be a key element tomorrow?

“It depends. If the gameplan asks for a high press, then you cannot do that without the defence also playing with a high line. That’s clear. If the gameplan is to play with a deeper defence, then no. But in the last two games we’ve tried to press high up the pitch.

“Tomorrow’s game comes with a few added difficulties. Obviously one of those is the quality of their players. The other is the new coach: because of that we don’t have much of an idea about how he is going to want to play. We can look into his past. Will he try to repeat the same ideas or has he changed? With different players will he play in a different way? There are a lot of questions that we cannot have answers to and that makes things a bit harder. We can’t predict how they are going to come out and play.”

What does Borja Mayoral need to do to force his way into the line-up?

“He needs FIFA to allow us to play 12 on the pitch. But as we can only play with 11 right now, we can only pick 11. I’m joking, of course.

“He doesn’t lack anything: he’s a good player, a good guy, he works really hard. I can only thank him for his work ethic. He’s a great professional. He will be important for us. I’m 100% sure. I like him even more now than I did when I arrived, two months ago. Tammy is doing well, so is Eldor, and we can play with two up front.

“Last time I put Tammy and Mayoral together, it happened because we could go with two strikers. But we cannot play with two strikers without having three in the squad. Mayoral has quality, he’s smart, he’s clinical in front of goal. But I like Shomurodov and Tammy too. Obviously Borja wants more, but his time will come.”

How do you cope with an opposition side that wants to cover ground across the pitch?

“We’ve thought about that possibility, that Tudor will try to build on what the team has done in the past. Perhaps he won’t change that element. Last year Verona under Ivan Juric they played in a certain way, and it doesn’t seem like they have really different ideas on the game. So perhaps Tudor will go down the same route. It’s always hard to go up against a team that plays like that – you could see how much difficulty Sassuolo were in against Torino last night.

“It’s a different way of playing the game. If that’s how they go about it, then it will be tough. But we’ve thought about the possibility and we’ve worked on it in training a bit: because they are good on the counter-attack, they are good at getting their full-backs into space, they are good at getting the ball into dangerous areas. They can go long as well.

“I like how Verona play. They have picked up no points from their first three games, but they could have got something against Inter Milan and Bologna. I think they’ll be mid-table by the end of the season.”

 
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