Roma coach Jose Mourinho said the perfect start to the season is no reason to be ‘overly optimistic’ and claimed Serie A is more important, even if he ‘would like to win the Conference League’.
The Giallorossi start the UEFA Europa Conference League group stage with a home game against CSKA Moscow tomorrow and the coach wants the fans to keep their feet on the ground in the Italian capital.
“Five wins are not 50,” Mourinho said at a press conference. “There’s no reason to be overly optimistic and positive.
“Positive results are still important because they help the team’s development project. The fans also have to be balanced like us, they have to understand that it’s a process and we have only been working for two months.
“Of course, there’s an evolution but we are calm. The fact that the stadium is always full is nice and can lead the authorities to understand there’s a tremendous desire from people of all Italian teams to be able to go to the stadium normally and therefore at 100 per cent capacity.
“I always tell my players that anything less than 100 per cent is nothing. We always have to work to the maximum, against Sassuolo we could have lost 2-1 but our ambition was not negotiable.
“It’s a characteristic that we always want to have.”
Mourinho said he will rotate the squad in the Europa Conference League, but stressed he’s concerned about keeping the ‘structure’ in the team.
“Obviously, I will do it, but the important thing is to maintain a structure,” Mourinho continued. “It’s a competition where we want to do something step by step.”
Nicolò Zaniolo played in both play-off games against Trabzonspor, when he scored once and helped the Giallorossi advance to the group stage.
The Italy international has played twice in three Serie A games, as he was suspended against Salernitana, and Mourinho wants to give the youngster a chance to continue in order to forget the recent long-term injury and ‘look to the future’.
“The players don’t know yet who will play,” he said. “I’m not saying it now. We need to find a calm balance, without any pressure.
“Nicolò is fine, and the injury is in his past. A few days ago he was tired, I understand that when they travel with their national team there’s not much time to work.
“If he goes to the national team and doesn’t play, he returns with lower physical abilities than when he leaves the club.
“We have seen it with Nico, but also with others. If he is well, he’s in a position to play tomorrow. From a psychological point of view, it’s important for him to forget the injury, let’s look to the future.”
Mourinho was asked how he keeps the fringe players in the squad motivated and pointed out that he has an ‘easy’ job, as the ‘group works well with each other’.
“The players are intelligent and understand things,” he said. “A player, even if he doesn’t play a lot at a given moment, watches how we talk to him and how we make comments in training or in the match.
“[Stephan] El Shaarawy understands that he’s important to me and he is a starter. They are never just 11, being on the bench or starting is a situation that can change.
“I’ve never had a season where the line-up that started was the same that finished. The season is a highway, but then it also becomes a winding road.
“The players must understand that without them we are dead, we cannot play with 10 or 11 players. Stephan understands that I like his characteristics and at the beginning of the season he had to follow a path to improve the form he had lost between China and injuries.
“He is growing and has a lot of experience. Before Sassuolo I told him that he’s a starter and that he would do it against CSKA Sofia.
“All players are more responsible than me in the dressing room. In this sense, the group works well with each other, I feel my mission as a leader is very easy, because it’s a good group.”
Roma participate in the inaugural Conference League and Mourinho wants to win the new cup.
“As an assistant, I have also won a cup that no longer exists [the Cup Winners’ Cup],” he said. “It was with Barca in 1997.
“I would like to win the Conference, but the target is not to be the only one to have won all three of them.
“Today, we are far from being able to win it, but I’m interested and the first step is to win the group. No player will go on vacation or rest, we will all be there.
“It’s a collective project and if any of those who have played against Sassuolo goes on the bench, that’s how it is.”
The Portuguese tactician was asked if Roma are more suited to the cup competitions or Serie A and Mourinho said the League is ‘more important’.
“It’s easy to say that they did well in the Europa League last year,” he said. “The defeat against Manchester United was heavy, but there was a team with a different power in front of them and Roma were in difficulty.
“I don’t know if this team is more suited for the cups, but for us the championship is much more important than the Conference League.
“But I want the right mentality. The next match is always the most important. When the Coppa Italia takes place, it will have to be the same.
“That’s how I like to think and that’s how we will do it. I want the team to be ready in all competitions.
“Tomorrow [Matias] Vina doesn’t play, but Calafiori. It’s normal to have to make changes like this. Now, the target is not to think about the championship but about the match tomorrow.”
Nearly 200 people gathered outside a restaurant where Mourinho and the team celebrated his 1000th game as a coach.
“That’s beautiful and it’s important for us,” Mourinho said. “For those arriving for the first time in Italy, like Tammy [Abraham] and [Matias] Vina, it’s important that they understand where they are.
“Thank you and nothing more. This empathy created with the fans is important. We must have experience and peacefulness. We must understand that there’s a lot to improve. Today we had a meeting about the match against Sassuolo and we analysed the mistakes.
“We are constantly working. If the fans understand this, it’s a plus for us. I’m convinced that even without the magical goal of El Shaarawy, people would still have gone home knowing that we had given everything on the pitch.”
Mourinho said he will not change all of the defenders ahead of the match against CSKA Sofia and said he has enough centre-backs in the team.
“There are four, that’s the right number,” he added. “Five would have been too many. I’m happy with the group we have, they have different ages and characteristics.
“If you ask me if I change both of them tomorrow, I’ll tell you that I won’t.”
Roma have started the season well in Serie A, but Mourinho wants to remain ‘humble’ ahead of a long season.
“We are not perfect, there’s a lot of work to be done and we have always made some mistakes,” he continued. “We have to remain humble.
“Tomorrow there are no pressures like against Trabzonspor, because it’s a group and points can be lost. We still want to finish first.”