Miguel Cardoso: We will fight for the league title until the end

Shakhtar's reserve team are actively preparing for the spring part of the championship. On Thursday, March 3, the team held a training session in Schaslyve. We are talking to Shakhtar U21 head coach Miguel Cardoso about players’ conditions and the team’s goals ahead of the first official match of the year. 

- How would you assess the quality of the team’s winter training camp?
- In a very positive way! In Turkey, we enjoyed the same comfort conditions as a year ago. In the hotel, we had everything what’s needed for rest, recovery and nutrition. But this time the state of the pitches was much better. We were lucky with the weather, so we did not miss a single training session. The training plan was implemented completely. In the past year, there were five or six days without training due to heavy rains. It is also important that we have played with opponents, who represent a good level.

- What can you say about friendlies?
- At this stage it was important to integrate new players and adapt boys to the fact that several key players had moved to the senior team. In training and in friendlies we did some work in that regard. I am pleased with the fact that we found worthy opponents for friendly matches, who tested us in different aspects. Basically, the team were overcoming difficulties, with playing very productive games. It is important we have played with sophisticated teams, as I say, with men. This allowed us to regulate fatigue against a background of the training process. Before the matches I intentionally gave the guys workload and we really achieved what we wanted. I would single out a friendly against the Romanian club Voluntari. Although we lost (1-2), but in terms of intensity and tactical aspects, it was an interesting game! Besides, we were playing on the back of peak workloads and fatigue, but the guys showed a good level. Just like in all matches. I think we have achieved considerable progress at the training camp.

- What is the team’s current state, given that on Saturday they will play their first official game of the year against Vorskla?
- You have to understand that during the season we are starting a little different process. Now we, I repeat, have to reorganise ourselves, integrate new players into the team and benefit from it. But the team are definitely ready to compete! I think we have improved in the psychological and emotional terms. We trust all the guys. We will try to show our best qualities in each game. Of course, the players who moved to the senior team, were important to us. However, we are looking for a replacement among those who have stayed with us. And this is also one of our main tasks. We are looking ahead, and therefore we are looking for new solutions.

- Would you say that this season the communication with the first team has been particularly good?
- We are very pleased with this process! We are happy about the fact that Mircea Lucescu praised the guys from the reserve side, and they proved themselves properly. It is also our job, because the Academy coaches should create conditions for footballers’ development, so that they could move to a higher level. Yes, it is necessary to look for new solutions, but we will still try to maintain your level.

- The fact of the whole group of players moving to the first team is surely a motivation for the rest of the guys?
- Of course, and it is high. These guys have only recently played for U21, and now: Boryachuk played in the Europa League game, Matviyenko was featured in the Cup game in Poltava, Korobenko was on the subs’ bench. And it is incredibly gratifying to see Kovalenko, who consistently plays for the first team, displaying a high level. I think it is hard to find a bigger motivation for the guys from the reserve team. And not just for the players but also for the coaches and the entire Academy staff. This is precisely the energy that we need for life. And it is our aim, our goal. That’s what Mister requested starting from the first day of my work, and I am glad that we are succeeding. Therefore, I am doubly motivated for further work.

- There is also another motivation – competition. Shakhtar U21 are topping the table, but the pursuers are very close.
- We are well aware of the realities of the tournament. Of course, we are going to challenge for the highest place. I hope the guys will be able to fight for the league title until the end. It will not be easy, because the rivals have strengthened. But that’s our goal. Goals are set every day and we need to work every day, and the result of this work is victories in matches. And the kit that we wear simply obliges us to fight only for victory, cultivate our character. I hope for a positive result, because the boys have the desire. They will succeed, if they work and act as a team. We do not have anyone whose level is much different from that of other team-mates. All the guys have to understand: if they train hard collectively, we will definitely succeed. We have a team!