On Friday afternoon Jose Mourinho met the media to preview Saturday's Serie A encounter with Hellas Verona.
The game at the Stadio Olimpico gets underway at 18:00 CET.
Here's what the boss had to say about the contest...
We’ve just seen that four players are out for tomorrow’s game due to Covid…
“Nine are out in total.”
Nine players out, then. Is Nicolo Zaniolo among those? And what condition is he in?
“No he isn’t. You guys seem to know more than me! We have training today at 5pm and then the game tomorrow is at 6pm – so there is time to wait and see how things are. We will see tomorrow morning.”
Nowadays it seems a lot more young people are watching football from different leagues…
“Maybe it’s not like that here in Rome, because tomorrow the stadium will be sold out once again.”
That’s true. But this week have you felt any nostalgia for the Champions League, having seen the great games in midweek?
“I’ve managed in more than 150 Champions League games, I’m very privileged to have done that. I can’t cry now because we are playing in the Conference League. So, no, I don’t feel nostalgia for it. I’ve seen and been involved in lots of great Champions League games down the years.”
Paris Saint-Germain and Real Madrid are two great sides…
“I didn’t enjoy that game. But I did enjoy Inter-Liverpool.”
You are known to be a great communicator – how do you find working with an ownership that are not heard from? Don’t you think that a public comment from the Friedkins could help quiet the rumours and opinions that surround the team?
“I don’t know if I am a great communicator. I do know that I am sufficiently intelligent to not show anything but full respect towards the owners of the club. When can a coach tell the ownership what to do? Who am I to tell the owners something? The ownership are the ownership – they are my bosses. What can I possibly say?
“I only have respect, both personally and professionally, for the Friedkin family. Personally speaking there is a rapport with them and in private we are able to exchange ideas and opinions on things. Obviously, in the business world I am nothing compared to them. But in the football world I have gathered enough experience, and they are humble enough to listen to me, so that we can talk about things in a very open manner.
“But, in terms of the overall institution, who am I to publicly express opinions on what they should or should not do? You can ask me the question, but what sort of coach would give an answer to that. Not me.”
Last time out against Verona they inflicted your first defeat of the season. Do you think something has changed since that game – has the side taken steps forward, especially in terms of their mentality?
“The weather has changed, at least – it was cold and wet on that occasion and I don’t think that tomorrow in Rome it will be that cold or that wet during the game.
“But, jokes apart, I don’t think about things like that. Verona are a really good side and it will be a tough game, just as it was the last time out. It was tough for them as well, they had to battle to get the win.
“Igor Tudor is a good young coach that believes in the style of play they have and the squad really responds well to his approach. I think their decision to entrust Tudor with the job was a smart one, because even before him the club had coaches with similar ideas about the game. They are a good side, an experienced one, who are sitting pretty in the table at the moment. It’s definitely going to be tough.
“But, nevertheless, I hope it will be tough for them too. Because yes, despite the fact we have nine players missing and we haven’t had too many results this season to really spark the imagination of the fans, it is incredible to think that the stadium will be packed out again tomorrow. And the players who are out there tomorrow will need to play with that support ringing in their ears and that commitment in their minds, let alone their hearts.
“Nine players missing is a lot; any side would be in trouble in those circumstances and we are no different in that regard. I won’t even be able to put out a full substitutes’ bench. I am sorry but I will also have to disrupt the Primavera side, who will play against AC Milan tomorrow, in order to put many of them on the bench with us.
“But, nevertheless, we are ready. We hope the support from the fans, which we’ve always had this season, will help us throughout the game and enable us to take points.”
Could you and the board use this last part of the season in order to assess which players are up to the challenge next season? And another question – Jordan Veretout seems to have fallen off a bit recently. Why is that?
“You make assessments every day. Even in training sessions. So I guess I better respond to your second question too, as that first answer was pretty short.
“There are not many players who maintain the same level over a full season, especially a high level. There are very few of them.
“If I have to be honest with you, if I had to choose one of our players who has had the most consistent, quality season to date … I would say Henrikh Mkhitaryan. Because he is a player who has helped solve problems, he’s a player who can play in different positions as the team needs. And he’s done that while maintaining a high level of performance.
“Jordan started the season really well and has then done slightly less well. Now it feels like he is returning to a pretty acceptable standard for us.
“But Mkhitaryan has played almost every game: he’s not been injured, he’s not been suspended, he’s not been at risk of being suspended. Physically he’s proven to be very strong and very durable. He’s played three games in a week at times for us. Veretout’s season, meanwhile, is an example of what happens to a player – it’s hard to stay at the highest level throughout.”
What more can Tammy Abraham do to help this Roma side improve, and what can Roma do to help him improve?
“He’s doing a good job, but he can do better too. The team needs him to do better and he needs the team to improve for him as well. The dynamic is always like that in football.
“Having said that, for a foreign player who has grown up in a different football environment and has joined a completely different club while leaving his homeland, none of that is easy. So he’s doing well. But I believe there is even more to come from him. He has the potential to do even better. But, nonetheless, he’s doing well right now.”