Sergei Kovalyov: Swedes play physical football, while we rely on technique

Head coach of Shakhtar U19 talks about the upcoming UEFA Youth League game in Sweden.

- Sergei Nikolayevich, what do you make of Malmo? What kind of game do you expect?
- We watched their games against PSG and Real Madrid. Malmo are a very good, well organized and disciplined team. They have excellent defence, leaving their opponents just few scoring chances. The players move well on their half of the field, they actively press and win the ball. They are a fighting and motivated team.

- Do Malmo rely on the strength or technique?
- I would mark their focus on physical, athletic football. In this component, they surpassed both PSG and Real Madrid. Certainly, in terms of skill and ball control, the Frenchmen and Spaniards looked better, but Malmo did not allow them to create many scoring chances. They practise typically Scandinavian football, making numerous flank passes and deliveries into the opponents’ box. At the same time, the Swedes challenge the opponents nearly throughout the match. While we have more technical players.

- So there will be two types of football on the pitch?
- We always say this to the guys: the first thing our team must pay attention to both in the domestic league and in the UEFA Youth League is concentration. Malmo are just fine with that. Also, it is important for us not to lose individual challenges for the ball – both on the ground and aerially. If we lose it, it will be very difficult. Besides, we should pay attention to technical and tactical components. If we manage to use them correctly, we will achieve a positive result.

- PSG are markedly superior to Shakhtar anthropometrically, which affected the game. Could this happen again in the next match?
- Something similar can happen again, the Swedes are no inferior to the French fitness wise. We will counteract them through speed, prompt ball handling and our individual qualities.

- Are your team ready for that?
- After the match against PSG, I think so.

- Do you think Shakhtar has a real chance of making it to the knockout stage?
- Of course they do. We must do it. But again, everything will depend on the maximum concentration. It is important not to have that nervous trembling, which was present in the first two matches. Still, Malmo are not that formidable opponents.

- In the previous two rounds, the opponents’ authority affected you...
- Yes, but in no case should we underestimate the Swedes. Moreover, they proved their strength having scored four points.

- You said that some players have disappointed you in the previous matches. Did you manage to improve their performance?
- We have a big group of guys, who have no experience of playing in the UEFA Youth League. It's very hard for them to perform at a high level against such skilful clubs. But after the two rounds, they acquired a taste for the competition as well as some experience. So our team have to play in a completely different way – to a better standard.