UEFA Europa Conference League


Here's everything Jose Mourinho had to say ahead of Thursday's Europa Conference League showdown against Leicester City at the Stadio Olimpico.

The match, the second leg of the semi-final between the two sides, gets underway at 21:00 CEST. 

The first leg ended in a 1-1 draw, with the winner on Thursday night heading to the final in Albania at the end of the month.

Leicester City have been focused on the Europa Conference League for a while now, and as a result come into this game having rested and rotated more players than Roma have done. How much of an impact do you think that will have?

“I hope it won’t have any. But the analysis you have made is obvious. I have found myself in the same situation before and, whenever you don’t have the chance to reach your targets in the league any more, then the focus becomes on European competition. Even if this is not ‘their’ competition, because they started in the Europa League, it’s the route they have into European competition again next season. So, that’s why it’s logical that they will rotate like they have done – resting players to be ready for this game.

“We have not been able to do that: we are still able to qualify for Europe through the league and we can’t just disregard that opportunity, we need to do everything we can to achieve it. But I hope tomorrow that the emotion of the occasion will really fire my players up – and that it will help them to go out and win the game.”

How do you replace a player like Henrikh Mkhitaryan?

“We do not have another player like Mkhitaryan. There are top sides out there who have two players for every position and there are sides that can rotate perfectly as a result. And there are other clubs where they struggle when they are without certain players.

“We don’t have another player like Mkhitaryan and I think that’s fairly obvious. So we can’t play the same way with different players. We will have to do things a bit differently but the target does not change: we want to reach the final, we want to give absolutely everything we have to give.

“I will never get tired of repeating that tomorrow will be our 14th game in the Conference League. We started the competition in Turkey and the most recent game was in England – we haven’t stopped, we’ve played Thursday and then Sunday for months with all the difficulties and problems which that brings.

“But we are here now and we are here as a team. Mkhitaryan won’t be there but others will be. We will go into the team as a group and fight to go through.”

What are your feelings ahead of such an important game?

“There’s no doubt that we’ve built a bond between ourselves and the fans. We have been together for more or less 10 months now, in the good moments and the bad. But we’ve stayed together, with a real spirit between us.

“We are now reaching a point where we have two more home games left this season – tomorrow will be the last one in the Conference League, and next weekend we will play Venezia in our last home league match. Clearly it would be amazing to celebrate the bond we have, which has been built and maintained regardless of results, in the right way. We all deserve to finish this season in the best way possible.

“To the fans, I would just say that we are obviously playing for ourselves but we are especially playing for them. And I would really like it if the fans play their part in the game tomorrow with us.

“Because you can go to the stadium to watch, and you can go to the stadium to play. If we have 70,000 fans watching tomorrow, it doesn’t mean much. But if we have 70,000 fans who want to play, then it’s a different story.

“So that is what myself and the players are asking of the fans: don’t come to the stadium to watch the game, come to play.”

(Photo LaPresse)