Paulo Sousa: "Let’s focus on ourselves"14/04/2017 15:33
Fiorentina boss Paulo Sousa has urged his team to concentrate on the job at hand – a derby clash with Empoli – rather than worrying about how their Europa League rivals get on in Week 32 of Serie A.
"I think we just need to focus on ourselves. We can’t control anything but our own performance," said Sousa, speaking in his pre-match press conference on Good Friday. "We need to make sure our intensity is high and try to score more goals than our opponents in order to win the game. That’s what I expect from my team tomorrow."
The Portuguese coach revealed he was expecting business as usual from Empoli on Saturday, despite the spectre of relegation still looming large over the Tuscan club.
"I think they have a very clear style," he said. "Ever since the start of the season, they’ve been consistent with their playing style and choice of personnel. I’m not expecting many changes. I’m expecting their players to be aware that it’s a derby and aware of their form, which will definitely spur them on to try and get a result.
"We’ll need to produce a quality performance tomorrow and it’ll be important to make sure we defend well. Empoli have a good short passing game and back that up by looking to get in behind your defence. We need to deprive their creative players of time and space on the ball. We need to move the ball quickly and make sure we’re able to shift gears quickly when we make some space – that’s what will allow us to get through on goal. We want to create chances and be clinical to make sure we score more goals than our opponents."
Fiorentina seemed to relish the derby atmosphere earlier in the season, when they roared to a 4-0 win at the Stadio Carlo Castellani, but Sousa was quick to stress that tomorrow will be another game.
"I think it was a different time and we need to concentrate on the present because you can’t rewind the clock," he said. "We did almost everything right in the game earlier in the season. We packed their box, kept the tempo of our play high and made sure we were direct. We took our chances at key moments in the match. For the first goal, I remember that we pressed high, won the ball back and scored from a penalty. From there, we grew into the game and won comfortably.
"For any match, our starting point is to take our playing philosophy and make strategic adjustments to fit the opposition at hand. What I will say is that the two sessions we’ve had this week have been the most competitive I’ve seen in terms of the players fighting to barge their way into my thinking for tomorrow. That was great to see."
Saturday is shaping up to be a huge day in the race for Europa League football, with Inter playing AC Milan and Atalanta travelling to Roma.
"We can’t play with anxiety," declared Sousa. "We need to play with confidence in our ability and conviction in the quality of our play. That’s what we need to focus on. We need to be concentrating on what we need to do as a team and on what each individual player can produce. We need to have confidence that we can perform well."
"We can’t do anything to affect that result [Inter v AC Milan]. It’ll be around the time we arrive at the stadium and once we’re ready I may have time to watch a bit of the match."
Fiorentina will be without Gonzalo Rodriguez for the visit of Empoli after the Argentine picked up a knock in training, but Sousa stressed that there were players ready and waiting to come in.
"He’s an influential player in our team, especially in terms of building the play from the back. That said, we have plenty of options and we’ll take a decision on other players, the way we always have done. I’m confident that whoever plays will do their best and help us to win the game," he explained.
Sousa also acknowledged that there was a chance that Khouma Babacar and Nikola Kalinic could both start against Empoli.
"It’s always an option when the players are fit," he said. "We’ve worked hard this season to instil balance into the team. All of my decisions – whether it’s the starting eleven or a decision I make during the game – are designed to help us win matches. That might mean two strikers or just one."
Last but not least, Sousa had a few words for Federico Chiesa, who has just returned from a training camp for emerging Italian talent.
"He’s already very confident. He drives himself on," said the Viola coach. "There are all sorts of distractions when you reach that level and it can be hard to stay fully focused on football, especially at his age. He needs to be guided through it."