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“If I didn’t believe it, I wouldn’t be at the press conference”


August 21, 2017

“If I didn’t believe it, I wouldn’t be at the press conference”

On the eve of the 2nd leg of the Champions League play-offs against Napoli (kick-off on Tuesday at 8.45pm), Lucien Favre answered questions from the press at the Allianz Riviera.

Coach, the first question is a direct one: do you believe it is possible?

If I didn’t believe in it, I wouldn’t have come to the press conference. I said it after the first leg: at 2-0, there is still something at stake, it’s unquestionable. To believe in it, we will need to pull out a huge individual and group performance.

What will Mario Balotelli and Wesley Sneijder change?
We will see. Sneijder played his first match against Guingamp (for 85 minutes), let’s hope he can recover relatively quickly. Mario only played 25 minutes, that was planned. Normally, they should bring something, we shall see. We haven’t seen them play together much in training, for obvious reasons. But they understand football, I think they will get on well. You just need to feel the game.

How can you counter the Insigne-Mertens pairing?
It isn’t only these two. We need to stop Koulibaly and Albiol, because it begins with them. In the middle, they are very strong with their distribution, their movement is great. There is lots of one and two touch football, good deep runs at the right time. Above that, Insigne is very dangerous when one-on-one. They are quick up-front, we will need to manage their runs, but it’s mainly in the middle that they make the différence. The add numbers and find themselves in a great place.

“We will continue to try to impose our style, be it Napoli or not”

What will be the key parts of this game?
We will need to be more compact than in the first leg, when we are very high, very deep or in the middle. Our lines need to be tighter and everyone needs to put the effort in to get the ball back. We will also need to break them down after we recover possession. We will continue to try to impose our style, be it against Napoli or not. They changed it a bit in the league but will work with more or less the same team, they have been working together for three years now, they have almost not changed and are very organised. We will need to be at our best physically, tactically and in our heads. And we will also need to know when to take risks offensively and when to defend to avoid conceding.

You have often spoken about the lack of dedication from Mario Balotelli in defensive phases…

I said that if he wanted to pass this stage, he could improve in that area. But we know what he gave us last season and we don’t forget that. It was for his benefit that I said that. It will be important that all the players pull their weight, even though we are aware that at times, we will need to compensate for it…

Tactically, will you opt for a 3-5-2 once again?
I am not sure in which system we will play.

Could the rumour of Mika Seri going to Barça be an issue in the dressing room?
It would seem that the noise is getting louder (in the press), but we are only focussed on tomorrow’s match. Until the 31 August and the 1st/2nd September depending on the place, everything is possible for lots of clubs. But for us, we take what comes, we are excited for the match tomorrow. And Seri will be there.

The Allianz will be full: can your supporters make the difference to help your side secure qualification?
They have helped us a lot. When there are 20 000, 25 000 or, like on Tuesday, when it will be almost full. There will be a great atmosphere, that’s for sure. It’s down to us to show that we deserve their support. Whatever happens, they will be there.