O L Y M P I A C O S   1 9 2 5
O L Y M P I A C O S   1 9 2 5
Mendilibar: “We will not change anything in our preparation”

Mendilibar: “We will not change anything in our preparation”

The press conference with José Luis Mendilibar and Rodinei, ahead of the final against Fiorentina.

Ahead of Olympiacos’ UEFA Europa Conference League final against Fiorentina on May 29th in Nea Filadelfeia, the team’s coach, José Luis Mendilibar, along with player Rodinei, spoke at a press conference given to the media.

Here is what the experienced coach of the “Reds” had to say in detail:

How do you feel as the days go by and the final approaches?
We are calm and well. We rested for two days and now we are back. We continue to work calmly and want to prepare as best as possible for the final.

Because you have the knowledge and experience of a European final, is there anything different you need to do in the team’s preparation?
No, I have said many times that we should not change anything. We got here by maintaining our identity. If we change our identity, we won’t be ourselves. We follow the same things, the same process, as we do in every preparation for any match.

We saw the Europa League final. Atalanta’s game is similar to Fiorentina’s. Do you think this final also showed that there are no favorites in such matches?
Everyone has a team they consider a favorite in their mind; in a final, there are many opinions. When two teams reach the final, it’s because they deserve it. The same goes for Atalanta and Leverkusen. Leverkusen was unbeaten, but in finals, anything can happen. Leverkusen had not faced a team like Atalanta until now. In a final, teams must be ready to face everything. In the Europa final, Atalanta took advantage of their opportunities and won. If you don’t seize your moments, things will be different in such a game.

A few days before the final, do you see that “spark” in your players for a European final, and is there also some creative anxiety in the team?
As I said, today was our first training session after a two-day break. It’s hard to see what you want to see in the first training session. It’s normal to have joy, but in the coming days, things will be different. We have days ahead of us, and I believe we will reach the point we want.

You’ve been at Olympiacos for about four months. How easy or difficult was it to change the team and bring out this quality to reach the final?
I am the third coach, and I am sure that both the first and the second have added their own contribution. Not all the success is mine; two people preceded me and surely helped. When things are not going well for a team, it’s easy to improve them, but when things are going perfectly, it’s hard to add something extra. In a critical moment, you can contribute; what I did was bring calm to the team and give the necessary advice. It’s the players who made it; they are on the field and have the quality. We are here to help and advise them, but the players are the ones competing.

In such a match, is there room for surprises in the build-up to the fixture?
I get this question often, and it’s like expecting me to transform things with a magic wand. I am not a guru; I am a coach and I am to present my team as best as I can, expecting the best result.

You talked about Atalanta’s mentality in the Europa League final. Will you follow this mentality for your own final?
If you don’t have this mentality, it’s bad. Otherwise, it’s difficult for anyone to advance. We will not change anything; instead, we will strengthen our qualities and become stronger and more aggressive. I don’t think there’s any room for changes, and you definitely need a strong mentality to reach such moments.

The fact that you eliminated one of the tournament’s favorites, Aston Villa, does it fill you with confidence?
Of course, the fact that we eliminated such a team should give us strength. But in a final, anything can happen. When you have eliminated Aston Villa, it makes you believe you can beat anyone. With all due respect to Fiorentina, we have also eliminated other teams like Fenerbahçe, which was a difficult case. All these qualifications make us feel strong and help us take advantage of all these moments to go into the final with the right mentality, the one that has brought us here.

Rodinei: “We are preparing calmly”

This isn’t new for you; you’ve played in and won the Copa Libertadores. What should the team pay attention to ahead of its most historic match?
It’s true that the competition you mentioned is difficult, and it’s a final that requires good preparation. However, I agree with my coach, we don’t need to change anything. What we need is calm, to focus on our training, and to do our job. There’s no need to change anything; we must stay focused on our work and prepare calmly. We know it’s a historic moment, but we don’t need to think about that. Instead, we should focus on preparing well for the match.

From the entire journey this season in Europe, what stands out the most in your mind?
I can’t single out any moment because every time I put on the Olympiacos jersey and step onto the field, it has special significance for me, and it is something unique. We want to win every game. What I can say now is that we have another battle ahead of us, and we will prepare as best as we can to be ready for the final.

Fiorentina has many Argentinians who will be your opponents. Is that an extra motivation for you?
It doesn’t matter; I am always prepared to face any player, no matter where they are from. We also have Argentinian players. The match is eleven against eleven. What we want is to follow the coach’s instructions and enjoy the game, that’s what matters.

You are the only player who has surpassed 4,000 minutes of playing time. Do you feel that in your legs?
I’m not young anymore; I’m 32 years old and proud to have played so much. But it doesn’t matter; it shows that I am experienced, but I am always at the team’s disposal. We are not individual units; we are a family. It doesn’t matter how much experience or how many minutes someone has played. What matters is to always be present, and I always want to make my teammates feel they can rely on me and enjoy their games.

Olympiacos is an inexperienced team in a European final, but having a coach who won the Europa League last year, does that fill you with confidence?
Of course, this is important for us because we have an experienced coach who knows how to be a winner. We follow his instructions, but in a final, anything can happen. We are here because we all deserved it. The same goes for Fiorentina. At this moment, what we need to do is leverage the positives that each of us has, and having a winner at our helm is a positive for us.

Have you watched any of Fiorentina’s matches?
I believe that at this level, all players should do this, to watch their opponents. I do it too, and I analyze the opponent. I have watched their recent matches, the games against Brugge. They are a good team with two Brazilians; I have observed them well, and they are a team that rightly made it to the final. But so are we, and they will say the same about us, that we are a good team with quality players. What matters is that we have a final ahead of us, and as the coach said, we will prepare as best as we can and see if we are ready for a final. We are a family, and we are enjoying what is happening, and the result will show if we were prepared well enough to make history.

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