See what Jose Mourinho had to say after Sunday's narrow defeat to the Serie A leaders...
One of the best performances of the season. Maybe, with a bit more concentration in key moments and without the late goal from Giovanni Simeone, it would have been the best of the season so far. Did you have that same feeling from down at pitchside?
“From the very first minute. We had a period of about 10 or 15 minutes after Osimhen’s goal where I think we felt a bit hard done by at being 1-0 down. But after that the side was always in control, always playing well; we pressed high, we won the ball back, we defended really well.
“There are games where you lose but you end up coming away more confident than you were beforehand: it seems like a contradiction but that is my feeling after this one.
“We are undoubtedly the team that has made Napoli sweat the most, the team that has scared them the most – in a stadium where the atmosphere is usually incredible but today it seemed like it was empty.
“Other than the result, which is obviously negative, I leave here today more confident than before. And beyond that, seeing that three of our substitutes were three babies who were playing on the astroturf pitch at Trigoria [for the Primavera] last season and yet today came here and played the way they did – it makes me extremely happy and proud.
“Sometimes football is unfair, sometimes the team that deserves to win ends up losing. It’s happened to us that we have won without deserving it; but today I thought we fully deserved to win the game. So I’m disappointed with the result, but that’s what I told the boys: be sad, because when you lose you can’t be smiling about it, but take the spirit we had tonight and we will see everyone at the Olimpico on Wednesday for the game against Cremonese.”
We saw you embrace Luciano Spalletti for a long time there … what did you talk about?
“At kick-off I thanked him for the birthday present that he gave me before the game, and explained why I hadn’t already had the chance to see him. A birthday present from a colleague is always a nice surprise. After the game I’m not sure what we said, we just exchanged a few words and hugged.
“I will repeat what I said yesterday, I’ll even underline it further: because today you saw that, beyond being a really good side, this team has the sign of champions all over them. And I know a little bit about that, because I have won eight league titles; in the key moments, that sign shows you the way. Tonight they had that little star helping them, which means that it will undoubtedly be their year.”
How is Lorenzo Pellegrini? He worked really hard defensively today, but it seemed that sometimes he was not quite able to get forward and get in the right positions to influence the game at that end…
“Lorenzo has not trained with the squad for the last two weeks. He only trained with the team yesterday, and Saturday sessions before a match are not about intensity. He sacrificed himself in order to play, he was not at his sharpest and you could see that out there.
“But I agree with you, we prepared the game like that. I have always said that when we only have to play once a week we can be a really good team, as you saw today. The problems arise when we have to try and play two or three times a week, that’s when it gets harder.
“But we prepared the game thinking that Napoli would struggle a bit more if they were pressed hard, because when Napoli have the ball in the opposition half of the pitch then they can really cause problems with the quality they have. We took some risks with that, and my players did a really good job of deciding when to do that. Matic played very well, but so did those behind him: Mancini played basically as a right-back and did a good job of frustrating Kvaratshkhelia, just as Ibanez and Smalling did with Osimhen. Because Osimhen is really hard to mark. He’s a top player, but if he goes to England one day he will need to change his attitude a bit – because they will kill him for it over there. Here in Italy it’s less of an issue.
“But we took our risks and, considering the quality we have, we played really, really well. Now the players need to forget about the defeat and focus more on the way that they played. They need to look at the league table and see where we are, looking at the fixture list and realise that we have already played in Naples and at the San Siro and in Turin. We can do well.
“Now, clearly, a harder spell is coming – because we have three games a week between the Europa League and the Coppa Italia. If you look at the way we played at the San Siro or in Turin last season, or even before I got here, it seemed like we had a mental or tactical issue in those games. Now we come to places like this and play like that. For me that’s something to be proud of, that’s amazing. Even if we don’t have points to show for it.”
What happened to Tammy Abraham? Could an injury to him mean Nicolo Zaniolo is welcomed back into the group?
“No. First of all, I’m not sure whether it was an injury or just tiredness for both him and Nemanja Matic. It was a pretty draining game for everyone, and for Nemanja too, as he had to keep an eye on Di Lorenzo quite a few times. The same goes for Tammy, so I’m not sure about the extent of any injuries.
“But those are the sort of players I want, players who want to play for Roma. I want players who are with us and make themselves available to us. When you don’t feel comfortable within the family then you need to leave. You need to find a solution. The family is for those who want to be part of it.”
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