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
Press Conference ahead of the UEFA Europa Conference League final

Press Conference ahead of the UEFA Europa Conference League final

The coach of Olympiacos Jose Louis Mendilibar, along with players Konstantis Tzolakis and Chiquinho, delivered the press conference prior to the final against Fiorentina.

Olympiacos is scheduled to face Fiorentina on Wednesday (29/05, at 22:00), in the UEFA Europa Conference League final. The pre-match press conference was held by at the Nea Filadelfia stadium and the red-and-white outfit’s coach Jose Louis Mendilibar, along with players Konstantis Tzolakis and Chiquinho, spoke to the Press.

Below follow words by the Basque coach:

Are there differences in preparation with Olympiakos compared to last year’s preparation with Sevilla for the Europa League final?

There is a great similarity in how we got here, how we started, and how we reached this point. Everyone knows the history and sees the similarities. However, these are different situations and we cannot compare them; the only similarity is that we reached the final.

Last year with Sevilla, you had two players from Morocco, and this year you also have two players, correct?

Yes, and indeed in the same positions. We have two central attackers from Morocco who have helped us on our journey to reach this point. Especially Ayoub El Kaabi, who is our top scorer. In the semifinals, he scored five goals, and we owe a lot to him for getting this far.

A question about Rodinei. You have six players from Portugal, two from Argentina, and Rodinei from Brazil in the dressing room. In Brazil, Rodinei is well-known for his character and jokes. Can you tell us about his importance in the locker room?

It’s very good to have such personalities on the team. Of course, under these circumstances, we are all happy. We would be worried if things were not going well and he had this behavior. It’s not just Rodinei who constantly makes jokes and laughs. He is a person who continuously makes jokes, never stops talking, and it’s pleasant to have this atmosphere in the locker room.

 The coach of Fiorentina said he has brought chains and padlocks to shut down El Kaabi. Have you thought of something similar for Fiorentina?

We have ten other players whom the opponent is also watching. He may have told you only about El Kaabi, but surely, he has the other ten in mind too. El Kaabi is a valuable player for us, our top scorer in the competition, and everyone is watching him. But surely Fiorentina has noticed and studied all our players. Similarly, we pay attention to all eleven of Fiorentina’s players, and El Kaabi is not the only one who can play well.

 What can a coach say to his players ahead of a final?

To stay calm and do exactly what we’ve done that helped us get here. Right now, what’s on our minds is that we have the last game, and we should approach it as we did in the previous matches. That’s the way, and that’s how we should play now.

 Do you see the same “fire” in Olympiakos’ dressing room as there was in Sevilla’s last year? Also, what will be your last words to the players before the game?

I’m not that observant to see the look in my players’ eyes. However, I saw yesterday’s training session, and my players are full of enthusiasm and desire. What I tell them is to believe in themselves and to have one more good game. If they haven’t given their all so far in training, they definitely should in the match.

 Is there the will and thirst in the team to write the golden page in Greek football history?

Of course, there is motivation, will, thirst, and passion. It would be foolish for anyone to get this far and not have these elements. The players are giving their all. I mentioned before that I saw this in yesterday’s training session. All our players are full of enthusiasm and desire to achieve their goal.

 Did the matches against Maccabi Tel Aviv show everyone that you are a team capable of winning the trophy?

Definitely, that match proved to everyone, but mostly to ourselves, what we are capable of. We went to Serbia with a heavy score and decided to give everything to turn it around. By halftime, we had already equalized the score of the first game. That match gave us strength and truly showed us what we can do.

 Usually, before such a game, everyone asks about the players’ psychology. What is your prevailing emotion?

I am very calm at the moment. I am waiting for the final training session and hope everything goes well. We have all our players available. I believe that a little before the game, I will feel some anxiety, but right now, nothing worries me.

 Carlos Ancelotti said that before a game, he eats broccoli to calm down. What do you eat? There’s a craze about this topic lately, and you’re a coach who might win a second consecutive European title.

I don’t remember, to be honest, what I ate last year before the final with Sevilla, nor do I know what I will eat now before the game. I will have many options: pasta, meat. I don’t know. I don’t usually eat much. There’s a craze, but I don’t eat a lot.

 What title would you give to your journey with Olympiakos? Also, have you finalized your lineup plan?

I have decided on my plan and which players I will use. Our journey so far is like a marathon: four qualifying rounds, we’ve traveled almost all over Europe, and we have faced many different teams. We didn’t start well, but then we improved. It’s a marathon, and right now, we are here and have reached the end of the journey.

Chiquinho: “With the same mentality that got us here”

What element must Olympiacos have to maintain the same rhythm as in the match against Aston Villa?

First of all, we must start strong from the first minute. We have an image, an idea of how we played against Aston Villa, and we want to play with the same energy and positive spirit. From the first minute, we controlled that game, but now we have a different match, a different opponent, a strong team. However, we have our own philosophy and approach, and with this mentality, we will go in to win.

Which is the one that prevails n matches like the final? Physical or mental preparation?

For me, both are important. To be honest, the mental aspect is a bit more important. It will be a tough match, but in the end, if we are mentally ready to fight together, we can achieve it.

The fact that the match is to be played in Greece, do you feel it gives you an advantage?

Of course, playing in our city is positive. However, at the end of the day, it’s a final. Fiorentina is equally well-prepared. For me, whether we play in Athens or another city, it’s the same. It’s positive that we will have our fans and their support, but this is a final we are talking about.

Given how you won in the qualifiers, do you feel you have matured to be able to reach the final?

Clearly, from the qualifiers to now, we are more mature ahead of the final. Especially after Mr. Mendilibar’s arrival, we have improved, changed our game, and he has brought his own ideas into our play. Everyone can see that, match after match, we grow better, mentally, physically, and as a team. We are more mature and know each other better, which is a positive thing.

Tzolakis: “Rightfully in the final, but we have one more game”

Which is the one that prevails n matches like the final? Physical or mental preparation?

In all matches, the mental aspect is more important than the physical. So, I believe that in this field, whichever team is more prepared will win the trophy.

The fact that the match is to played in Greece, do you feel it gives you an advantage?

Only that we have played here twice before, nothing more. Of course, having our fans on our side, there will be more of our supporters, which will boost our game, but the match will be played within the four lines.

Given how you won in the qualifiers, do you feel you have matured to be able to reach the final?

To reach the final, we had to eliminate some top clubs. Naturally, when you want to win a trophy, you don’t go through the various rounds easily. We are rightfully in the final, we have shown this in previous matches. What remains is to show our good side once more, in one more game, the final.

Have you prepared for the possibility of penalties? And how about mentally?

The final might involve a penalty shoot-out. So, it is our duty to be prepared for that as well. The whole team is ready for any possibility, just as we have analyzed all of Fiorentina, we have also analyzed the possibility of penalties.

Does Fiorentina have an advantage because they come from a final in Europe?

Fiorentina has a better advantage over us because they have played in a final and have had a taste of it. However, these things stop making any difference at the moment the referee whistles for the start of the match.

There was an excellent initiative by Olympiakos and Mr. Vangelis Marinakis to invite little Giannakis to the stadium; is this an initiative to change things?

It is another opportunity to change the situation a bit. Let’s hope we realize what sports are really about and stop the violence in sports, which unfortunately hurts us a lot.

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