There were exactly 24 hours left until the start of the expected game between Slavia and AS Rome, when the special from Italy landed on the runway in Ruzyna. The plane with Mourinho’s team was delayed and the start of the pre-match press conference had to be delayed by more than half an hour.
Roma is on record in the Europa League, has not lost a single point in the first three rounds and is leading the Slavist group. But you wouldn’t know it from Mourinho, he spoke in a formal way: “Every match is vital for me. It’s been like this since I started playing football professionally. That Slavist coach Trpišovský also said that? In that case, I identify with him.”
Is he facing a tougher match than two weeks ago in Rome, where Slavia had to breathe a 0:2 defeat? “Sure. Of course,” Mourinho replied. As a reminder: at the Olympic Stadium, the Vršovice team made it much easier for the favorite. After two unnecessary mistakes, it was over after less than 20 minutes. “It is true that Slavia has an excellently organized team with a quality coach. Plus a nice stadium. This combination means that we will have a more difficult match than at home. We are close to promotion, but Slavia is also compared to third Geneva and fourth Tiraspol.”
By the way, Mourinho will play in Prague for the third time. In March 2002, he fell with Porto in the Champions League at Sparta (0:2). And August 2013 in Eden? That time, as the Chelsea coach stumbled in the battle for the European Super Cup against Bayern, his team did not manage the penalty lottery. “Prague is beautiful, but my professional life doesn’t allow me to just fly around the cities and visit the monuments,” explained Mourinho. “In the Czech Republic, however, I know quite a few local football personalities. For example, Čech, Jarošík or Poborský, who were great players,” Lisbon named his former wards from Chelsea and Benfica.
The respect in Mourinho’s voice disappeared when it came to Maurizio Sarri, the coach of Lazio Roma. He complained that his team had to play a key duel in the Champions League with Feyenoord Rotterdam (1:0) before Sunday’s derby with AS, while Mourinho’s boys only have a “friendly” against Slavia. “Unlike Mr. Sarri, I respect Slavia, so I would leave out the statement about a friend. That’s the difference between coaches who have won only a few trophies and us, who have 26,” Mourinho amused journalists.
Even before he started looking for doors in places where they weren’t there, he mentioned the lineup in passing. Will he seriously leave midfielder Paul Dybala and striker Romelo Lukaku among the substitutes, as Italian media speculate? “Everyone who is fit will play,” he answered diplomatically. “It’s important to feel up to it and have enough strength for the players to play two games in four days. In addition to success in the Europa League, we also want to be among the top four in Serie A, but we are not going to tire the boys.”