Nice - Ajax
July 25, 2017
L. Favre: “We will be there!”
There we go, we have arrived. The clash against Ajax officially kicked off through the pre-match press conferences. Speaking to the media, Lucien Favre followed his captain, Dante. On the front foot, the coach underlined the importance of Wednesday’s encounter, which will get the 3rd Qualifying Round of the Champions League underway in an on-fire Allianz.
Coach, do the Gym need to make the most of last season to improve, or to start from scratch?
The 3rd place, we made the most of it. It was a fantastic season. Maybe exceptional, maybe not. But it is in the past, now we need to look forward. Another season is starting, it’s the European Cup. The philosophy remains the same, but with a handful of things to improve on, both as a group and individually. We need to work and to bring on our players who are here, because they all have room to improve. That doesn’t come on its own, and so we need to insist on these things and we will need to perform.
How is the squad feeling?
All the players are delighted to be playing in Europe. It’s a Q3, a knockout match. You need to manage that well. There is the second leg, of course, but we need to already be 100% focussed on tomorrow’s match, not to look any further and to not say “what if, what if, what if”. We have scouted Ajax, the way that they play. Even though the players don’t look as much at these things, it’s down to us to tell them about their main qualities, what they do, the way in which the press, high or deep, how they play out from the back… All of this helps to try to find out the weaknesses in their system. We will need to be concentrated, in the positive sense of the word, but we won’t change our philosophy, for any team that we face. We will need to be concentrated but also relaxed, because we need to play.
Are you about to face a test like the rest?
It’s not exactly the same thing, because it is a cup match. What counts for me, once again, is that we play. And in the term “to play”, everything is included, not only with the ball. We need to think about the team, to press the opponent, to move the ball. There are many things that need to be taken into account.
“Whatever the attendance may have been, the fans have always been behind us”
What differences do you see between French and Dutch football?
The Eredivisie is very physical. And we can see how Ajax play: they run a lot, there is a huge amount of pressing, lots of recovery runs, and duals. They are happy to face one on ones, their full-backs are quick. They will be in a 4-3-3, that has been their philosophy for a long time now, even though they also played a 3-4-3 under Van Gaal, with Patrick Kluivert up-front.
The Allianz Riviera will be sold out on Wednesday. What does that bring to the side?
Whatever the attendance may have been, the fans have always been behind us, we are always fully supported. When it was full, we felt an extra something, but there is always a great atmosphere. I am not worried, they will be behind us, and it is also down to us to show them that we deserve their support.
How do you feel Mario Balotelli’s pre-season has gone?
He started a bit later than others, but he has worked hard, like the rest of the team. We have at times had some very good sessions. Against La Gantoise, it wasn’t too bad. Then, there are ups and downs in the friendlies, but they are only friendlies. Until now, it’s OK. He is willing to listen, that’s the main thing, like the fact that he is taking things on bit by bit and is getting to the level that he wants. He has the challenge with Nice, and then behind all that, there is even a “potential” chance with the Italian national side, which isn’t to be sniffed at (the World Cup in Russia, Editor’s note). So there we go...