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Mircea Lucescu: I am very proud of my players and team

Wednesday, April 27, 2016



Press conference of Shakhtar head coach before the game against Sevilla

- Can the Konoplyanka factor affect the game? As a coach with great experience, tell us whether a player could prompt anything to the coach in this situation?
- That’s normal when footballers who know the opponents, can share something. But I do not think that there are coaches who listen to their players. Each mentor builds the game plan independently and studies the opponents very well. I do not think that gathering different information is worthwhile. Every coach has his own strategy. That’s why Emery has said: I have studied Shakhtar’s four previous games. Therefore, I think everyone makes some analysis, being satisfied with the data from the monitor. I never ask players for any kind of additional information. Each of us sees the encounter in his own way, so it makes no sense to listen to someone else’s opinion. They just look at game organisation and physical side. Someone looks at the statistics, someone else – at the technical and tactical data.

A sport has many components, including mental one. How does it feel to train away from your home city for 18 months? The team are currently in Lviv. How do you manage to maintain the players’ psychological condition?
- It is very important to retain the high level both mentally and physically. Shakhtar have reached it by lifting the UEFA Cup. Now we are in the Europa League semi-finals. I want to say that such Eastern European teams like CSKA, Zenit, Galatasaray also won the UEFA Cup. But in subsequent seasons, none of them have reached a semi-final in any European competition, never repeating their success. While Shakhtar, even in the current difficult conditions, still play in the Europa League semi-finals! Therefore, I am very proud of my players and the team. We will continue in the same vein. That’s extremely important. Also, the support of our fans is very important to us! Together with the players, we watched the kick-off of Sevilla vs Betis game, understanding what taking to the pitch in front of the capacity crowd is like. I hope to see the same thing tomorrow. I hope that all the fans at the Arena Lviv will be just like the fans of Sevilla in Seville.

- Can you derive anything positive from that bitter experience, when Palop scored against Shakhtar in the dying minutes?
- We’ve shown some fragments of those two games to the players. We had 10 seconds left to edge past Sevilla back then. We played two very good games against them: at home and away. Sevilla scored two goals from the spot against us, the second of which was also scored at the end of the meeting – in the 88th minute. We had a very good game in Donetsk. Unfortunately, we missed focus in the dying seconds. And that led to goal-scoring and the defeat. While Sevilla that year, if you can remember, won the UEFA Cup. I think they just got lucky against us. Let's hope that the luck they had then would pass onto us. Because everything is balanced in life.

- Do you consider Sevilla to be the favourites?
- No, I don’t.

- You said that Emery had watched Shakhtar’s four games, so how many Sevilla games did you watch?
- I watched as many games as necessary to scrutinise Sevilla.

- Nine goals have been netted in the previous meetings against Sevilla, along with the goal by Palop, plus as many as three penalties in the first game, which is quite rare in European competitions. Do you think that the upcoming games will also be full of goals and emotions?
- That’s a different level. The semi-finals will see the clubs of about the Champions League level. You might have seen the most recent match Manchester City vs Real Madrid. With the teams just being each other’s match, and it’s much more difficult to score goals at this competition stage. The semi-finals usually end in a narrow win, with the opponents just scrutinising each other. At this stage of the competition, of course, each team is eager to make it to the final. In our previous games, we had scored many goals. Besides all the training work we carry out, we need some great support, luck and more courage. It is necessary to correctly interpret the episodes, since we are playing a very good side. Sevilla have some very experienced players, who have been in many great European clubs. Usually, when you have such players, you win titles. Those are experienced players aged 28 to 30. Each of them knows what to do on the field in a particular episode. The team is headed by a specialist coach who is tactically savvy, who organises the game well. The strong team of our level.