UEFA Europa Conference League


Coach Jose Mourinho spoke to the assembled media on Wednesday afternoon, ahead of Roma's Europa Conference League semi-final against Leicester City.

Thursday's first leg takes place at the King Power Stadium, with kick-off at 21:00 CEST (20:00 local time).

Here's what Mourinho had to say ahead of the contest...

Have you spoken to your friend Claudio Ranieri about this game – a man who won an amazing Premier League title here in Leicester?

“We’re friends, yes, but we haven’t spoken about this game. I’ve always said it: many people have won the Premier League more times than him; Ferguson, Wenger, Klopp, Guardiola. Ranieri has only won it once, but his is the most special of all of them.

“That’s why he is a hero in this city and at this stadium. I played here that season and I remember it as an incredible story in Premier League history. So that’s why, even if Claudio isn’t here – or at least I don’t think he is – you are right that this is a special place for him.

“He is a Roma fan, from Rome, and this will surely be a special game for him. If he’s not here, maybe he will be next week - and then it will surely be a special feeling for him.”

Last time you reached a final (with Tottenham) you weren’t allowed to manage in it. So are you are a bit worried about winning this one?

“No, I don’t have any fear – I hope that we are able to win it. I believe that Roma, as both a club and as a team, and my players and all those who work in the club deserve to reach the final for the great work we have done to try and improve the club across the board. Unfortunately at times football does not give you what you deserve and to reach the final we have to beat a very good side, with a great coach and great players. We will have to be at our best for both games.

“In all of my long career, among the many things that have happened to me both good and bad, to not be able to lead the Spurs team out for that final is something unique. But I have to say that [Tottenham chief] Daniel Levy is a pretty unique character in football.”

In terms of your relationship with Brendan Rodgers, it has been said that you don’t share the same ideas about the game. Is there really such a big difference in your views?

“What I can say is that we worked together at Chelsea, we enjoyed working together, we are friends – although obviously football has taken us in different directions. Having said that, whenever we are not playing against each other then I want the best for him – 100%. He’s a great coach, a smart guy, with a great future ahead of him. He’s done well so far and I wish him only the best.

“He’s worked in different clubs to me with different players to me. At the end of the day the key thing is that I have won a lot in my career and he, in a shorter career than me to date, has won titles in Scotland and in England; he’s won the Community Shield and taken the team to the Champions League. He’s done great work.”

What are your feelings ahead of this game? What does it feel like to be returning to England for you?

“If I am not wrong, we will be playing our 13th game in the Conference League tomorrow. We started off the competition against a side that I immediately said would win the Turkish league. And they have won it with ease. Trabzonspor were immediately a tough opponent. Now we are in a key phase of the competition.

“Leicester are a Europa League side. And to get into the Europa League, from the Premier League, you have to be a really good side. That’s why this is not their competition – it’s our competition. It’s our 13th game. We’ve had to battle a lot, we’ve had to travel a lot, and we’ve paid for that by dropping points in Serie A – because we’ve been playing on Thursday and Sunday. We deserve to be higher.

“We have two ways of qualifying for the Europa League next season – finishing fifth in the league or winning the cup. But, of course, we could also not achieve either. This puts pressure, responsibility and doubt on our shoulders. Leicester don’t have that problem right now. They will finish between eight and 10th in the league. They can’t qualify for the Europa League that way. But we are in the hunt. It’ll be tough, but it’s a moment to be fired up for too.”

Is there a difference between the fifth-placed team in Serie A and the 10th-placed side in the Premier League? Are Roma better than Leicester? Is there a favourite for this tie?

“I’ve reached the semi-final of competitions many times in my career. Beyond the names and the potential, I always say the same thing. The sides have a 50% chance of reaching the final and a 25% chance of winning the whole thing. And that doesn’t change now. The first time I reached the semi-finals, if I’m not wrong, it was 2002-03. And 20 years have not changed my opinion.

“I’m not interested in whether they are stronger than us or we are stronger than them. But I understand what you are saying. There are two games, it’s a semi-final. There’s a lot of hard work behind successful football teams, but also economic potential. You can only go so far on hard work alone: good coaches, good players, good club … but there is a limit that only money can get you beyond. We are a good side and we are improving.

“We lost 3-0 against Inter, then we lost 3-1. Two similar scorelines but there was a vast difference in terms of how we played, our attitude, our performance. Beyond where we finish in the league, or whether or not we win the Conference League, we are a team on a path that I like – that coaches like us would be positive about.”

(Photo LaPresse)