Miguel Cardoso: winning is Shakhtar’s spirit

The head coach of Shakhtar U-21 team spoke about the preparations for the new season and the team’s relocation from Poltava to the training centre in Shchaslyve settlement.

- How do you assess the team’s pre-season?
- After the holidays, we gathered together in Shchaslyve on 29 June. During that time, we have done a great job given the fact that the summer break is short - not like in winter. Nevertheless, we managed to rediscover our physical form, we also paid great attention to the tactical aspects, trying to maximally integrate the players with our performance ideas. I think we carried out a successful preparation.

- Has the squad changed compared to last season?
- At the training camp, it was important for us to decide on the guys we will continue to work further with. We parted with some older players, while other players, in our opinion, were unable to reach the first team level. We are focusing on the younger group of players who we will develop. I mean the U-19 team, who reached the ‘Youth Champions League’ final. Seven players also participated in the Euro U-19 final in Greece for Ukraine and joined us only three days ago. We have no doubts whatsoever about their fitness, they are important players for our team.

- Throughout the year, the reserves team and the U-19 one were based in Poltava, while now they have moved near Kyiv. Are you happy with the conditions at the new base?
- We were satisfied with the base in Poltava. And in Shchaslyve everything is also fine. The club created the conditions for all the Academy boys to work together, as it was in Donetsk. All six teams will now receive the opponents here. Now it is easier for me as the Academy coordinator to organize the vertical football structure properly, plus we got closer to the first team geographically. In this regard, the move will benefit the young players psychologically. Because they see that the Academy graduates of recent years – Malyshev, Hryn, Kovalenko, Matviyenko - are in the first team now. This is a clear signal coming from Mr. Lucescu and the club for the reserves lads: the young people must believe that making it to the top is possible.

- Apart from preparing the players for the first team, what competitive objectives have you set for the upcoming season?
- Of course, we all want to win - it's our nature, it’s the spirit of Shakhtar. Unfortunately, the U-21 league lacks the sport principle. Most likely, we will again play against the opponents being two or three years older than our guys. Last season, Dnipro, Dynamo and Vorskla frequently deployed their first team players, which could not but affect the competition results. Nevertheless, this does not relieve us of the high objectives - it is necessary for us to develop the winning spirit and achieve the maximum results. Against this background, it is important for us to raise the players’ performance bar - both technically and tactically, to instil an aggressive football style in them while in control of the ball and when losing it. We do not divide the reserve team and the U-19 one, we lead the guys to the same game philosophy. From this season on, according to the regulations, you can only make three substitutions instead of five. At the same time, the new U-19 team’s base match day is Sunday, which means that the players will get some extra match practice for the reserves on other match days.

-The team’s games in Poltava attracted quite a lot of spectators. What do you expect from the local audience in Shchaslyve?
- Indeed, the fans in Poltava very well received us and we are grateful to them. In such a delicate moment for Donbas, we feel comfortable in this city. As for Shchaslyve, everything is simple: we hope to showcase good football which will attract audiences to the stadium.

Please be reminded that on July 18, Shakhtar U-21 team are to take on their Oleksandriya counterparts in the league season opener. The meeting will take place in Shchaslyve settlement of Kyiv Oblast, at the stadium of Knyazha Arena. The game kicks off at 18:00.