José Luis Mendilibar at the pre match Champions League press conference
First team


The coach feels his players are ready to face the French side, who have started their season badly but “have an experienced manager who won’t be afraid of us”
Cuerpo Superior

José Luis Mendilibar, alongside Loïc Badé, attended the pre-match press conference for Wednesday’s clash with RC Lens: "It’s always important to start well in a competition, especially with as few games as the Champions League. Being at home we will have a slight advantage. I think we’re in a good place, like I said we had a great two weeks leading up to the Las Palmas win, and now we’re playing again 72 hours later, which feels like a decent turnaround. The worst part of this tournament is the short recovery time, but we just had three weeks without playing so we should be fine to play two games in three days, knowing that we have a very complete squad and that anyone who didn't start the other day can contribute.

Asked about the starting line-up, the coach said “there could be changes. I won’t give anything away about selections, but players are always going to be tired, even though they’d never admit it. Everyone wants to play in the Champions League. The psychological aspect is always important, especially in this contest. Whoever is going to play will do well, whether or not they played on Sunday. On the chances of Mariano making his debut, he explained that “he is training like the rest, albeit slightly behind the others because he spent so long without any group work. He is passing all his goals, both individually and as part of the team, so gradually he is coming round to the way we want him to play. I don’t mind whether we play with one or two forwards, I just want them to be around the box. Sometimes not even two works, so you have to count on everyone working together. It’s those type of decisions that will keep me busy during the match."

"It's the Champions League and everyone wants to play, the players aren't going to say they're tired."

Lens arrive with almost 24 hours more recovery time than Sevilla: "Once a run of so many games begins, it becomes more difficult to manage the schedule but with almost two weeks of rest we could have played on Saturday. The opposition have had an extra training session, but with the teams we're up against in this competition we can't really complain." On his Champions League debut: "I want to do well in this competition, for the club, of course for myself too, for the fans and for everyone. I would love to finish in the top two and qualify for the knock-out stages. It's something new for me and if we do get out of the group we will set our sights on bigger things. But first we have to focus on the now. I know it's cliché but we need to focus on doing what's best for us." On Ramos and his history with the competition: "He's a leader and has proven this everywhere, the clubs he's played at and with the national team. He was already a leader here when he was just 18 years old. He's a born leader and will die being one. We know he can help us in difficult moments and when we are under pressure, whether from the bench or in the starting XI."

On Lens' current form: "They've lost a couple of key players who've gone to other leagues, they haven't had the best start having only drawn once and lost four in five games. They're yet to reach the level they were at last season, but they've got a manager with five years experience there so I don't think they'll be nervous. They've got a very clear style of play and even though it's not been getting them results I doubt they'll change anything. They play with attacking full-backs and if you allow them space they're rapid on the counter-attack so we have to avoid that. We can't be complacent and shouldn't look too closely into their domestic form but instead what they achieved last season. We'll try to play our own game whilst being aware of the threat they pose and then do our best to come out on top. They have a clear philosophy and will come out fighting. They'll be confident despite their results but we're hoping to deal with whatever they throw at us."

To close he spoke about the two players who have not been included in the squad list for the Champions League. "Januzaj was preparing to leave in the summer, he ended up staying and from now he is just another player in the squad. He is working his way back, he has been training well and we have to make the most of that. He is not in the squad for Champions League and of course we are going to try to integrate him into the squad because he is a very good player. With Marcao we are taking it slowly. Very slowly. He is taking small steps because we don't want a recurrence of the injury. Tomorrow he will have a scan to see if everything is ok and from there we will see what the medical team save. I don't think he will be back for at least two weeks, possibly a bit longer.