What challenge are you expecting from Juventus?
They are so experienced they will enjoy the different competition.
Yes they had some troubles in the start, a bit of a rough start according to results in Serie A, but they were very convincing in the Champions League and you never know, if sometimes players are missing, and it’s the same for us.
The guys who come on want to show they are reliable. We’re playing Juventus at Juventus, it’s a no-brainer that it demands respect for the quality and tradition of this club.
At the same time we also need to refocus, regroup and face a tough challenge with positive energy and with the determination to bounce back.
What is the injury news with your squad ahead of the game?
Christian, Reece and Mason are out due to injury. N’Golo unfortunately tested positive, and needs to have time and follow the government protocols.
He was not in training today and of course was not with the group.
When do you think Reece James could be back?
It’s still very painful, and it will come down to pain management in the end how much he can accept but right now we are looking at a minimum of one more week
You appear to have altered your pressing system since the arrival of Romelu Lukaku?
Yes, because it’s a normal thing, because you always adapt to the players you have with their strengths and weaknesses. Of course we analysed also and I know why you’re asking because we were too passive against Manchester City.
The defensive choices, the defensive plan, in my responsibility, maybe also led to this passive behaviour. That was not the plan, but it led obviously to it.
When we had the ball it was too deep, we defended the box over a long, long period very well, so we did not allow anything in and around the box.
But it does not feel good when you become so passive and so deep. The choice of the system maybe led to this behaviour, so we are all in this. We’ve already shown we can play a high-pressing game and have high ball-recoveries with Romelu.
It’s a very complex game where we have to be in all the spaces, but the best way to defend is having the ball and then to counter-press without the ball.
City did this excellently in this match, they clearly had a very, very strong performance.
We underperformed, they made us underperform, but there’s enough room to bounce back and this is necessary to show that we are adapting to our players, and that includes Romelu.
Is this Champions League even harder after winning last time?
Yes maybe the expectation, you know, it’s hard to be seen as an underdog when you just won the title but I think we came from a role not as the favourites last season,we grew in confidence and got better in every match.
And maybe we were seen as contenders very late in the competition which can sometimes help. Now it is of course easy to make us the favourites.
We have the experience that there’s a higher value to play against us, there’s a higher motivation to play against us. We have to accept this, it’s our fault: we have won this competition.
It’s no secret we like this role to come from an outsider or challenger for this title, which we still are. I don’t think we are the favourites but we showed everybody the performances we’re capable of.
And that’s now on us, it’s very important that we make ourselves free from these expectations, and these expectations do not become our expectations and we stay realistic that we have absolutely clear from us what we demand from us.
This is also very high standards, that we want to reach in any match.
The better we do this the better it is for our performance, because performance comes also from narrowing down and going step by step, which is what we try to do.
What percentage of squad vaccinated, any concerns?
I don’t know the percentage actually. It’s not even that I don’t want to tell you but I simply don’t know it.
And we are also only a reflection of society, the players are adults and it’s free choice if they want to get vaccinated or not. I think we should accept it.
This is more or less everything I can say. I know the situation is far from over and every time someone gets it here from us or from our group, it makes us very aware it’s not over.
I hope that it gets as less as possible but I clearly don’t have a solution.
How frustrating to lose a player like this? Appealing to footballers to get jabbed, should they?
It would be easy to say yes now and get maybe a bolt from a lot of people. But at the same time do I have the right to say it? I’m not so sure.
I can make the decision for myself, and everybody else needs to reflect about it and take a risk or not. I think it’s a serious question and vaccination seems to be a proper protection.
I am vaccinated, I took the decision for myself. But I don’t really see myself in a position to speak out proper recommendations, I think that would go too far.
I’m a football coach, I’m not a 100 per cent expert in this and I would leave it up to them.
Everybody is adult enough and everybody lives in a free country and a free society, which is a god thing, so people can make their choices.
Of course we take actions and then are responsible for them, and we don’t like to lose players.
But we are not now angry with N’Golo, of course not, we are concerned about him and worried about him, as we are with any injured players who get a kick in a game.
We will stay in touch with him and bring him back as soon as possible. But of course we’d love to have a full squad of players and full choice.
Juventus are a very different proposition without Ronaldo?
Time will tell but I think it is not a secret that any team in the world without Cristiano is in some parts of the game a weaker team because he is one of the greatest who has ever played this game and he proves it every time he is on the field.
Now in the Premier League and in the Champions League, so they lost a big champion, a big point of reference and a big personality. But you can win games and be a strong team without Cristiano Ronaldo. This is also true. And they are. They have a lot of experience, a lot of talent, a big squad, a deep squad, a very experienced coach.
They are a proud club that is used to winning and has this certain mentality shaped by winning. We go to Italy. It is my first time to play Juventus in this competition. We face competitors and this is what we like.
We are up for tough challenges and we look to constantly get better and this will make us a better team this challenge and we are looking forward to it because it is a very nice game against a very tough opponent.
Gareth Southgate said he he was heavily abused over encouraging vaccinations, concerned that could happen to you?
I am absolutely not afraid of having bad reactions. If I am convinced about something I will speak out publicly, but I’m a football coach. I have a lot to do and I am a father in my family so I have enough to do. I am not fully involved. I am not fully aware of what vaccination is deeply all about. I took the decision to have it myself. But am I in a position to give recommendations publicly?
No I am not. If somebody is convinced then we have to accept other opinions and harsh reactions. I would not be shy to accept it and argue with them or try to convince them, but I don’t feel that I am in this position and I’m the right person for this. Everybody needs to take the decision. There are recommendations.