Carlo Nicolini: Players received a training plan for vacation

Shakhtar fitness coach told us about the team form and how the players retain their shape during the holidays.

- Carlo, how would you describe the autumn part of the season for Shakhtar?
- First of all, I want to congratulate the club president and the team on completing the first part of the league season as leaders! In the current circumstances, this is a very good result. We have suffered only one defeat - in the closing five minutes of the game against Dnipro after no penalty on Ferreyra had been awarded. We had just one tie in Poltava, when we made some mistakes at the end of the match. This is despite the fact that we have been playing away, without our fans ... Yes, they come to attend the Champions League games, but this is not the kind of support we enjoyed back at the Donbass Arena. In fact, Shakhtar play all the matches away. We play in different places, so we have to constantly be on the move, while our competitors have the opportunity to hold more than half of the meetings at home. But nothing can be done about it, that’s the current situation. This year we had numerous flights, actually flying once every three days! We conducted 336 training sessions with only one training field. Our staff makes every effort for us to train in good conditions. Still, that’s a far cry from our Kirsha training centre.

- Despite all the difficulties, are you happy with the results?
- Given the fact that six very important players have left the club lately: Fernandinho, Willian, Mkhitaryan, Fernando, Adriano and Costa, and that there have been no new signings, the result is just fantastic. We owe this to the team, which was formed earlier thanks to the president of the club, and which currently operates professionally and efficiently. In the Champions League we got one of the strongest groups featuring Real Madrid and PSG. It is a pity that we managed to show our best qualities not everywhere, but only in one half against Real Madird, in just one half against PSG, and then in another half against Real Madrid again. We had errors, but the refereeing also affected it very much... We made it through to the Europa League - that's great! Besides, we claimed two victories over Dynamo Kyiv - in the Super Cup and in the league - thus confirming our strength and power. And I'm very proud of the work done by our guys.

- What do you make of Shakhtar’s fitness in this part of the season?
- Well, it’s good that we haven’t had many injuries. This fact makes me proud of the results of both our staff and of our collaboration with Massimo Ugolini. I want to emphasize that even in the face of constant flights and transfers, with the players lacking rest, we didn’t have any major injuries. I believe that this new year, Bernard, Azevedo, Kovalenko, Ordets, Kryvtsov, Ferreyra and the other guys will be able to help the team even more. Adaptation period is over, so I expect them to step it up. I’m very happy for Dentinho, Marlos and Ismaily: the coaching staff waited, and they have been working hard, now reaching the general skill level of Shakhtar team. Many players, especially the young ones, have grown and reached the top level. It is not so easy to maintain it, because here we are talking primarily about the inner culture and education.

- Are the team well adapted to the current conditions physically, according to you?
- Physically, we have shown that at home we can perform better than Real Madrid, PSG, and much better than Malmo. In contrast to our away games. In the Ukrainian League, we are also no inferior to the other teams form wise. At the same time, the technical and tactical characteristics alongside the game organisation help us win. In the matches against the league’s average sides, who give their all physically, we run less, but through our organisation, technique and tactics, we beat them! So overall, the form is just excellent. I always tell the players that they can do better: they can adapt, do everything more reasonably, with more focus on the requirements of Mister to their performance skills. And this new year, we will continue in the same vein.

- Whose physical form did particularly impress you?
- Physically, the whole team are in good shape. I would highlight Srna and Kucher, who at their thirty-something, sometimes run even more than the others do. At least no less. I am also pleased that we managed to bring up to the necessary standards those players who were signed up a year ago. Previously, they covered a distance 9 kilometres, currently covering 11! And I'm sure that in the next six months, some will be able to improve their performance even more, helping us to win in a very difficult situation.

- Shakhtar went on vacation for a month. Have you talked to the players about the upcoming period?
- Yeah, I wish everyone to recover well, because the team have deserved it after working so hard. After having a break of seven to ten days, which is primarily needed for a psychological rest, I have sent each player an individual training plan in order for them to be back in form at the beginning of January. We have the Europa League ahead. We want to show there what we haven’t fully showcased in the Champions League. And, of course, to win it.

- Will the final segment of the league season be even more difficult than the autumn one?
- We have ten games ahead, having the same number of points with Dynamo. I believe that only the circumstances put us on the level playing field: had we played at the Donbass Arena, with Dynamo not playing some of their ‘away’ matches in Kyiv, that is, at home, we would have been ahead of the opponents by some 10 goals! So I want to emphasize that the current league season calendar is not in our favour. But on the other hand, this is another reason to be proud of the physical work well done, as well as psychological. The coaching staff have dedicated a lot of time to that. During the training, as well as after it, we tried to help the players assess their current form, to motivate them and maintain high concentration. From match to match, it is important for Shakhtar to maintain the proper level in a difficult situation. Therefore, we really look forward to the next 6 months of our work.