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    Mourinho: “We’ll need character to take on Juventus at our best”


     Jose Mourinho had plenty to discuss in his press conference on the eve of Roma’s trip to Juventus in Serie A Week 18.

    Here's what the boss had to say...


    How’s the team doing heading into such an important game? How is Gianluca Mancini? What about Paulo Dybala, who’s been in full training three times in the last few days. Could that be enough for a starting berth?

    “I won’t give you an answer about whether he might start or not. Having a press conference at 10:30 before training is also a form of protection, but there’s a feeling that Paulo will be available. As for whether he’ll play, start on the bench or be in the XI, besides the fact that I don’t want to tell you, the truth is I haven’t decided yet. I still need to talk to him and see how he’s feeling.

    “If everything goes as normal in training, he’ll travel with us and be available for selection. Mancini is in the same situation as last week, with a feeling that he already knows well: playing without training. He did really well against Napoli. He’ll certainly play tomorrow, no doubt about that. He’ll play and so will [Diego] Llorente and [Evan] Ndicka. Mancini knows how important he is to us.”

     How would you assess Juventus’s progress under Max Allegri? How much have they changed since last year?

    “Juve are Juve and Allegri is still Allegri. We always know what to expect from the team and what to expect from Max.

    “When we speak about risultatista (results-oriented) teams or coaches, it’s a strange term. I consider getting results to be the most important thing in football. Some people nowadays think it has a negative connotation. When people speak about a risultatista, all the connotations are positive for me.

    “Juventus are just that. They defend in numbers and they defend well. When they go on the counter-attack, they’re so strong. They’ve picked up so many points from set pieces… They’re playing once a week and that doesn’t just mean that they are rested, but it means they get so many days of tactical preparation and so many days to work hard out on the pitch. They’re up there in a war with Inter for the Scudetto.”

     Let’s talk about the transfer window.

    “The window is in January…”

     I know that, but there’s not long to go to satisfy your need for a defender.

    “My need? No, no such thing…”

     What about your desire to have an extra player?

    “Desire, yes…”

     Given that Evan Ndicka is off to the Africa Cup of Nations, there has been talk about Leonardo Bonucci as a solution and now it seems that even more efforts have been made in terms of finding a solution. Can the mood surrounding the club affect transfer negotiations, which seems to be the case with Bonucci? The other name being bandied about, this time as an exit, is Renato Sanches. Could he leave the club in January?

    “I feel comfortable talking about Renato as he’s our player. I don’t feel comfortable speaking about Bonucci, however. I think that has to be respected and a way of doing that is by not talking about a Union Berlin player. I see no reason to talk about him.

    “As for Renato, I have no information about him possibly leaving or not. There’s nothing from Renato, Renato’s agents, who are the same as mine. There are no messages and nothing has been said about the situation and we’re talking about the same agents. I have no information from sporting director [Tiago] Pinto. I don’t have any information about Renato possibly staying. It’s obvious that he’s going through a difficult time and it’s also tough for me and the squad as a whole, but I have no specific information about Renato.

    “As for the question that you asked me regarding a possible influence on the club, I can express my personal opinion. I always say two things. The fans are the heartbeat of the club, but then you have the ownership and the structures, which are different and supreme. The decisions are made by those in supreme positions, but I think that the heartbeat of the club, and this doesn’t just apply to Roma, is the fans. When you’re doing something good for them, you’re feeding that passion and that love. If you’re doing something that the fans don’t like, I think you should reconsider. I can’t and don’t have anything else to say.”

     In order to reintegrate Renato Sanches, could he travel to Turin?

    “There’s a doubt over that because it’s not been a smooth week of training in which he’s worked with all the others. He certainly won’t play. We’ll decide later today if he’ll travel with the squad or not.”

    Earlier you mentioned that Juventus are real results-oriented, a rock-solid team who are watertight at home. What do Roma need to pick up points in Turin?

    “Character. We obviously need to be on point both physically and tactically but this game really requires character. Both teams play different kinds of football and Juventus are obviously a top side. You can draw comparisons between Napoli and Juve. At home we showed the character required when taking on a team which is technically and physically superior. While the Olimpico drove us on against Napoli the lads on the pitch really did their job too. On an individual level, we were top-notch. Llorente played a blinder and Ndicka put in his best performance since he joined Roma. I could go on mentioning names. Tomorrow we'll need all of this as well as the character we showed against Napoli.

    “We know that it'll be a tough match and that we'll have our 2,000 fans up against the 40-odd thousand Juventus supporters there. The club is used to always winning and collecting trophies. Obviously, it's not a straightforward scenario but we'll need to show character and courage there and to play as we did against Napoli, facing them on their level. At no point were we settling for a draw in that game. From the first minute we were out to win it. I hope that against Juventus we can do the same.”

     A player who you’ve often praised and love is Lorenzo Pellegrini. When we’ve seen him play recently, we’ve felt that he had something holding him back and he didn’t seem fully focused. He’s not the Pellegrini that we know. Is it a physical and technical issue? I’d like your opinion on this.

    “My opinion is that he’s improving and that’s what I like. Besides the crucial goal that he notched against Napoli and the way he came on in that game, he also did an excellent job the previous week.

    “He’s not the type to let up and I’ve never seen him do that, while some others may not work at their hardest in the week. Not him, he’s always focused and works hard. Last week, I saw he had that touch of quality, à la Lorenzo.

    “He did well when he came on, he played well and he has kept that going this week, so I’m pleased. You might be right that for a period of time he dipped slightly and wasn’t performing to his usual high standards, but now we’re seeing them. We need to make the most of his form in a period in which we have so many games to play, with seven or eight fixtures back-to-back in January. He’s important because he’s a top-quality player.”

     I wanted to go back to the defence. There was talk about Bonucci coming in as a player who’s ready to slot straight into the defence. When you speak to the sporting director, do you imagine a time frame for the defender’s settling-in period? Or will they need a few weeks? Are you thinking about tactical alternatives?

    "If I start thinking about all that, I might lose focus ahead of the game that we need to play in before January, which is in Turin tomorrow. We have three centre-backs who’ve been playing for a while. We have Bryan [Cristante] who’ll play in midfield, but if needed, he can drop into the defence. We’ve been working with [Zeki] Celik for a while as a full-back to try to boost his tactical knowledge so that he can play there. He did so for 60 minutes against Sheriff. Of course, we’re talking about a very basic level, but we’re trying to gradually improve what he can do.

    “We’ve known for six months now that Ndicka would be off to the Africa Cup of Nations. We’ve known for six months that [Marash] Kumbulla wouldn’t be available in January. It’s impossible for him to start, but he could be on the bench to help out. For the last three months, we’ve known that [Chris] Smalling wouldn’t be available in January. We’ve known for six months that this would be the situation in January and early February until the end of the Africa Cup of Nations. Now we know that Mancini and Cristante are one game from suspension. You can imagine the scenario of having just one centre-back for a specific match.

    “We’ve known about this for many months. I promised myself I’d go down a path in which I give everything that I have regardless of the circumstances. That’s what I’ll do.

    “After Juventus, we’ll start thinking about the Cremonese game. My job is to prepare the team as well as possible with the resources at my disposal.”

    Will Kumbulla travel to Turin?

    “No.”