Cardoso: “We are taking this match very seriously”
Ahead of the UEFA Europa League third qualifying round tie between Universitatea Craiova and AEK in Romania, both Miguel Cardoso and Petros Mantalos spoke to the media.
AEK are considered as favourites to beat Universitatea Craiova over the course of the two legs, but the Kitrinomavri can’t afford to underestimate their dangerous opponents. Craiova, who already have plenty of official matches under their belts this season, advanced to this stage by defeating Sabail and Budapest Honved in the first two qualifying rounds. However, due to crowd disturbances in the home game against Honved, this match in Craiova will take place behind closed doors.
Head coach Miguel Cardoso shared his expectations for the match:
Fact of playing inside empty stadiums: “First of all, I want to speak about the fact that these two matches will take place behind closed doors. This is not a good thing for both me and the entire AEK family. Football is a game of emotions. A game of joy. When I saw Craiova play Honved, I was excited to play in this atmosphere. Fans have to be at matches, they want to help and support their respective teams. I am also sad that we won’t have our supporters by our side in Athens. I would like fans to avoid getting involved in such situations which mean that they can’t attend matches.”
How prepared AEK are for competitive football: “Yes, we are ready. We have been training for more than a month. From the first moment of pre-season, our players have been working very professionally. At the moment we’re only thinking about Craiova. We are taking this match very seriously.”
Craiova players he would sign: “I am very happy with the players I currently have in my team. It is clear that Craiova and Romanian football deserve our utmost respect. When I worked with Shakhtar Donetsk, our head coach was Romanian. Last year, I had Ciprian Tatarusanu in my team, who is a goalkeeper from Romania. Lots of Romanians play in Portugal too.”
Comparison of this AEK team to the roster last season: “It’s obvious that this is a different team. Some players left AEK, while others joined. The players who start tomorrow are the ones in the best position to deliver successful results for us. During the game, the substitutes will also help. We have to be a strong, united team.
Goalkeeping situation: “We have excellent goalkeepers. Vasilis Barkas is an international, Panagiotis Tsintotas is very good and Giorgos Athanasiadis is also great. We are fortunate to have good goalkeepers in the team.”
AEK captain Petros Mantalos isn’t taking the Romanians lightly either:
Readiness of AEK: “I think that we’ve been working well. In the friendly matches, we showed our new philosophy and how we want to play football. We’re ready for this game against a good team.”
Possible disadvantage with Craiova having long been playing competitive football: “We will find out the answer to this question tomorrow. They have more rhythm, yes.”
Playing without fans in Romania: “It can be considered an advantage for the away team when the hosts cannot have their supporters inside the stadium.”
Opinion on Universitatea Craiova: “Since the draw was made, we have been studying Craiova. Beforehand, we didn’t know a lot about them. However, having analysed them, we can say that Craiova have a good and disciplined team. Craiova have quality and it won’t be easy.”