The Marco Verratti-Vitinha duo has been in high demand since the start of the season. Aren’t you worried about overusing them?
I am satisfied with the association of Marco and “Viti”. They are players with a lot of activity, volume, very good footballers. We see that when we defend less together, it is two boys who can be in difficulty. There are other pairs, there is also the possibility of being in 3 midfielders, to have a better defensive base. They chained a lot even if Marco on the last 4 matches came out quite early. I have not made my decision on the composition of the environment for tomorrow.
“We had ten, twelve very interesting minutes (against Maccabi Haifa), a big half-hour where we were in great difficulty. We see a team block cut in 2 with unusual technical errors »
Is Marco Verratti going through the best period of his career?
Very difficult to answer. Marco, he has been in our Championship for ten years. I have this enormous privilege to train him. He had bad spells, he had a series of injuries. He is at an incredible level, he is very important in our game. He is a very present player in recovery from loss. He is at an exceptional level.
You spoke of the “renouncement” of the 3 attackers in the pressing after the game in Haifa (3-1, Wednesday). How to mobilize them more?
I used this term after the match but watching the match again and after talking to each other, it’s a fact, the trip, the 2 hours by bus, the heat, a very high humidity level contextualizes. We had ten, twelve very interesting minutes, a big half-hour where we were in great difficulty. We see a team block cut in 2 with unusual technical errors. By modifying things, certain positions at half-time, we were much less cut in two. This is the whole paradox of the right balance. If it is 2-0, what would have been the outcome of the match? But we have decisive players up front. The front three at any time can be decisive. We still have 24 hours to fully analyze all of this. Everyone is fine. Everyone wants to play this match, it’s a great meeting.
“Hugo (Ekitike) is a player with incredible potential. He discovers the very high level »
Do you give specific instructions to the “MNM” on how to defend or do you leave them a lot of freedom?
They all 3 have a very high level experience. They have this ability during the match to make decisions on the field. Of the 3, Ney (Neymar) may be the player who has the best defensive withdrawal. Kylian (Mbappé) keeps a lot of pressure on the opposing defense, it’s an important fixation point. Leo (Messi), he has a totally different register, he is still very well placed. Ney is the one who gives the best balance because he has his characteristics.
How do you perceive the evolution of Hugo Ekitike who has had little playing time since the start of the season?
Hugo (Ekitike) is a player with incredible potential. He discovers the very high level. It took him a lot of sessions to find his bearings in the game, to be in connection with the offensive animation. He is progressing enormously, he is very good in the sessions. He has ants in his legs, the good times will come very quickly. Very quickly, he will have a lot more playing time.