Monchi, as is usual, attended club media today ahead of our Champions League clash tonight in Salzburg. He is in no mistake as to the importance of the match: "Obviously I'm feeling tense, nervous and excited for the match to come around. It's an important and decisive day. This is a final because there is no second chance. We have today and there are no other options. It's win or win."
Our time in the group has been difficult this year, but we can only focus on the present: "Looking back on things isn't worthwhile. We are where we are - at the time we analysed the group which was a strange name with not the biggest clubs but very competitive ones. There's not too many groups where on the final day you can either finish first or fourth. We have to look towards what we have in front of us today, accepting our position in the group and despite that, we still depend on ourselves." The conditions are not the usual ones in Seville: "We cannot use the snow as an excuse. The pitch is humid at the moment but that's why they have heating - it won't be a problem. It'll be -2 or -3, but no colder than that."
There will be an empty stadium tonight: "It's not an advantage for us but perhaps it's a disadvantage for them. They ought to be feeling disappointed with it but when we played them at home we also had attendance limits. We would've liked to have had the full stadium for that. These are circumstances that we can't control and they can say it's a negative handicap but I don't believe it's a decisive factor." No one is in any doubt as to the importance of these 90 minutes: "Going through in the group was one of our main objectives for this season so if we don't go through we will have failed. Then there's the economic advantages in tough times - it would be a blow to lose out on the biggest financial income available to us. But it's a possibility and then we'd have to find solutions. It won't be the end of the world either. We're in a tough, but privileged situation because we depend on ourselves. The players know that and the importance of that factor. We want to play well tonight. I know the lads are motivated - they are aware of what's at stake. Whatever will be will be."
"I know they lads are motivated - they know what's at stake"
A draw is good enough for Salzburg: "They're a team that like chaos in matches because they are very good and quick in transitions. They hurt us a lot in those moments at home and they're similar to teams like Dortmund or Lille. We have to be careful defensively and try to not give the ball away. A draw is good enough for them and they don't need to throw the kitchen sink at us. But they like to control matches and I don't see them sitting back." Psychology will also come into it: "We never surrender and don't use excuses. That spirit is transmitted down through the coaching staff and veterans like Fernando and Rakitić. They looked confident this morning. We very rarely let our guard down - we always fight until the last moment."
There will be no need for a pre-match talk: "You need to know when a talk is necessary and today isn't one of those days. They are already motivated. It's like the final in Cologne - there was no need for a pre-match talk because they knew what was at stake." Monchi spoke of his respect for tonight's opponent: "For those of us who work in scouting, it's no surprise. They have players who in three or five years will be at huge clubs. Their average age up front is 20 years old and they will star in Europe. I'm perhaps surprised about just how mature they are, although they have had a drop in the last few games. Despite that they've performed at a high level and are a point away from qualification."
"Salzburg's average age up front is 20 years old and they will star in Europe"
Monchi discussed some players such as Montiel: "We've had to bring forward his integration into the team, just like with Rafa. Montiel is a sure bet - he has won the Copa Libertadores, the Copa América... We just have to wait for his adaption to the team. He's an icon at River Plate at only 23 years old and that says a lot. We had to accelerate things a bit - we wanted to go slower but he's responding. When the sporting management go for a player like him, it's because they are sure he will perform." He also discussed Acuña: "Marcos said he was feeling good yesterday. Injury times with him are always provisional and we're feeling optimistic. He'll definitely be back before the scheduled date."
He also discussed the injury to Lamela: "It's a blow because it came in an absurd moment in a kick-about game. He fell over and we didn't think it was that serious but I know about shoulder injuries - I had the exact same one. We started to get more worried as the pain wouldn't go away. He wanted to push forward but in the end we opted for surgery and it's a shame because he gives us different things out on the pitch and we weren't expecting this injury."