See what Jose Mourinho had to say ahead of Thursday's Europa League match against HJK Helsinki in Finland...
The match at the Bolt Arena gets underway at 21:00 CEST (22:00 local time).
Here is everything the boss had to say in his pre-match press conference.
It’s your first time in Finland – what do you know about the country?
“It’s the second time, but the first time to play football. I am not focused on the country, I am focused on the match. It is a must-win for us. We need to win so we don’t depend on other results, or to be thinking about what may or may not happen in Bulgaria. We need to win and we know it is not going to be easy.
“After the first match I tried to be as honest as possible and say that when it was 11 against 11, the game was difficult for us. With one player more, in the second half we made it an easy match – but 11 v. 11 it was not an easy one. Of course I watched both matches here - against Ludogorets and Betis - and they were not easy matches for them either. Ludogorets could not win and Betis, in my opinion, were a bit lucky the way they finished the first half.
“So, it’s a difficult match tomorrow. We are not on holiday, there has been a big accumulation of matches for us but this one is a crucial one because we want to stay in the competition. We do not want to go to the Conference League to defend our trophy, we want to play in the Europa League and we are only thinking about winning the match tomorrow.”
What are your thoughts on the artificial pitch here, and why haven’t you trained here before the match?
“I don’t want to cry because there is no advantage to crying. We have to play, we have to play. As I was saying before, we need to win – and it doesn’t matter if it is on grass, artificial turf or sand. We need to win the match and the focus has to be on that.
“If you want my opinion, apart from this game, then I think on an artificial pitch it is another sport, it is not football. It changes things a lot on a technical level. I am not saying things change on a tactical level, but on a technical level it changes things a lot. Better players suffer, even the best defenders face some technical issues that need to change. Of course it is an advantage for those who are used to playing on it and of course it is a difficulty for those who are not used to it.
“But I just spoke about it because you asked me. If you had not asked me then today I was not in the mood to talk about it, because I am just in the mood that we need to win the match.”
What scares you most about Helsinki?
“I wouldn’t say ‘scares’ me – but we know them, we know we need to be prepared. After the first meeting, I praised their coach because the side were very well organised. To be honest, I think in the last few years the Scandinavian sides have improved a lot: 10, 20 years ago maybe you would come across a few good players in these parts, but you wouldn’t find very good times. Now you see Finnish, Danish or Swedish sides who are really well-organised and have very good coaches.
“In the first meeting I got the sense that we were facing a side that knew what they wanted to do out on the pitch, that had an identity about them. And, as I’ve already said, when it was 11 against 11 it was a tough game for us. Assuming that tomorrow it will be 11 against 11 for the entirety of the game, then we will have to play a great match because they will be a tough opponent.”
After all the discussion about your difficulty in scoring goals, do you think that this could be the game in which everything turns around and your attack really punishes a team?
“It’s about the team. When you all are really positive about the team, I am always really happy to celebrate individual efforts. When you are talking about the team in a negative way, however, I don’t like focusing on individuals. I have done that a few times in the press, because occasionally things get away from me, but in principle it’s not something I like doing: we are a team and as a team we need to score more. It’s not about the individuals.”
There’s a big gap between Roma and Helsinki in the UEFA rankings. But do you think the absence of players, the weather and the artificial pitch will combine to close that gap tomorrow?
“The rankings aren’t really of interest to me; what interests me is what happens on the pitch. We have already faced them once and I did not notice this great difference between us that exists in the rankings. Rankings are a bit like match statistics: a team that creates five dangerous openings but never gets a shot on target looks like one that has not created any real chances.
“For me, the only numbers that you can’t ignore in football are the number of goals scored and the points you get if you win. All the other statistics can be interpreted in different ways. In this instance, the rankings are built on dubious criteria. In my opinion Helsinki are a good side.
“When you mention the pitch, I think I’ve already spoken about that. Those who are used to training and playing on such a surface have an advantage. And I think that’s why, despite having a great [grass pitch] stadium right next door, we aren’t playing there tomorrow.”
That is because of sponsor requirements…
“That’s a nice excuse to have. You could say that it is fine to play on in the league, but when you are in a European competition… anyway, that’s also down to UEFA – it’s not just down to the club.
“Last year we played two games on an artificial pitch and we lost both of them. One of the two was a big defeat. But, after that, we had a game that was much more do-or-die, and after that in the return leg we killed Bodo to progress.
“Tomorrow we won’t have a second chance: it will be the last time we play against Helsinki and there is not going to be another game at the Olimpico. If we lose tomorrow, we are out. That is why I was not going to speak about the pitch in this press conference, because it’s not something to cry about. We have to play on it and we have to win on it.”
In the build-up, is the team have more trouble moving the ball down the flanks – to beat a man and create a numerical advantage? Maybe that is also having an impact on the forwards…
“I don’t agree with you. I think it’s simple: a side that has trouble in build-up doesn’t create goalscoring opportunities. That’s it. And if we did not create many chances in the last game against the league leaders then when we played Atalanta, another side doing really well, we created at least 15.
“So the build-up is working. In terms of the wide players, the only thing you can say is that, because of injuries, we have never been able to play the same players for three or four games in a row. Even Zalewski, who is a left-winger by trade, has had to play on the right at times. Zeki Celik has been out for a month and Spinazzola, after last year, still has his limitations and struggles to play three or four games in a row for the full 90 minutes.
“But I don’t agree with you about the build-up. But in football the only objective statistics, the ones you just can’t argue with, are the number of goals you score and the points you pick up. And, until now, we have not scored enough.”