UEFA Europa League


Coach Paulo Fonseca was in good spirits on Thursday evening, after watcing his side breeze into the last-16 of the Europa League with little alarm.

The Giallorossi won 3-1 at the Olimpico against Sporting Braga to confirm a 5-1 aggregate victory - as Edin Dzeko, Carles Perez and Borja Mayoral all got on the scoresheet.

Here's what Fonseca had to say after the contest...

What pleased you most about tonight’s display?

“We played well, we were secure, we won, those are the key things. And we were also able to rest a couple of players ahead of the upcoming games. I think we won convincingly.”

How are you keeping the team’s performances at such a high level?

“The attitude is the big thing at the moment: with Ricky [Karsdorp] playing in centre defence it was not easy, but he did really well. The same goes for Jordan [Veretout] who also played out of position. I really like it when the players are able to make sacrifices like that for the team and still really perform. We showed the right respect for a really good opponent.”

Your selection decisions were rewarded on the pitch. But are you now worried about Ediin Dzeko’s injury?

“Yes, we’ll have to see what has happened. I don’t think it is anything serious, but we will have to evaluate him tomorrow.”

Both Dzeko and Borja Mayoral made a difference again tonight.

“Yes, I really liked Dzeko’s performance – and Borja’s too, when he came on. I think it’s great for the team to have this competition for that striking role. They have both worked really hard and I’m really pleased with them.”

How important is the AC Milan game now, as far as your season goes?

“It’s really important, just like all the games are though. It’s the next one, so it’s the most important, and it’s against a really great side that are playing well. What matters now is that our players rest and recover and are ready for that match.”

Was your plan always going to be to play Borja on Sunday?

“Honestly, I was only thinking about this game. We will have to see what decision I make for the one against Milan.”

The Europa League is a draining competition, but you seemed to rotate pretty well overall.

“Yes, it was important that we won the game in Braga – that allowed us to approach this game a bit differently, with a bit more of an opportunity to manage a few things. Although with the defenders we didn’t have the option to rotate at all, because of the injuries.”

Now the calls will grow that you can win this competition.

“All the sides left in the competition are really good. Right now it’s hard to pick a clear favourite. We will have to wait and see who we get in the draw tomorrow, but we want to go as far as we possibly can.”

(Photo Getty Images)