Slot only now looked back at lost final against Roma, Mourinho thinks about it every day
Eleven months ago, Feyenoord’s European dream shattered in Tirana. The Rotterdammers reached the final after a brilliant season in the Conference League, but in it coach José Mourinho’s AS Roma was too strong 1-0.
Tonight Feyenoord face AS Roma again, on a European step up: in the quarter-finals of the Europa League. A lot has changed since May 25, 2022, especially for the Rotterdammers.
The Rotterdammers played a laborious first half in Tirana that night, in which AS Roma took the lead after more than half an hour at the first opportunity through Nicolò Zaniolo, who controlled the ball with his chest after a high cross and skilfully tipped it past the outgoing Justin Bijlow.
After halftime things went much better, but Feyenoord failed to capitalize on their chances.
Slot only looked back at final on Wednesday
Slot had not watched back the final in Tirana since then. Post-match discussions with his players were not necessary at the time either: it was the last match of the season and the day after the final match it was time for vacation.
Yesterday the Feyenoord coach sat watching the Conference League final with a notepad on his lap after all, without emotion and with an analytical eye. And that did not disappoint him at all.
Slot only watched Conference League final back this week: ‘Wasn’t too bad’
“I thought we played much better soccer than I thought for a long time. In my head it was much less good from our side. But there were a lot of things in there that I’m going to use in the pre-match,” Slot said Wednesday at the press conference.
“For example, my perception was that in the second half there was little football and a lot of training. But that wasn’t too bad, that was only limited to the last ten minutes.”
Mourinho sees cup every day
Mourinho was also asked questions about the Conference League final in his press conference at the Kuip. But for The Special One, that – for him, successful – book was closed long ago. “I can’t think about Feyenoord in Tirana. It seems to be something permanent for you, and for them too.”
‘Conference League final is behind us, Feyenoord excellent team’
Still, Mourinho thinks about last year’s victory every day: “For me, Feyenoord in Tirana represents something very simple. Every day when I arrive at Roma, the first thing I see is the Conference League cup. That reminds me that we played against them. But that is something that is behind us.”
Looking back at the final did give Slot new insights. Useful in this regard is that Roma’s starting eleven has hardly changed since last year.
“They have kept a complete squad together and also added two, three very big players,” Slot said. “That has given them even more individual quality.”
For example, Paulo Dybala came from Juventus and Andrea Belotti from Torino and Georginio Wijnaldum is rented from Paris Saint-Germain. Rick Karsdorp is currently injured, but the other seven players who are most likely to be in the starting lineup at Roma on Thursday were also at the final in Tirana.
How different it is at Feyenoord. Of last year’s 11 base players, seven have left Rotterdam: Tyrell Malacia, Marcos Senesi, Fredrik Aursnes, Guus Til, Luis Sinisterra, Cyriel Dessers and Reiss Nelson.
Better than in Tirana?
Still, it should be known by now, Slot and his staff have managed to form another great rotating team with many new players. Is this Feyenoord better than the Feyenoord from Tirana?
“It is very difficult to compare these teams,” Slot said. “In terms of points in the premier league it’s pretty close, in European terms we reached the final last year and now at a higher level the quarter-finals, so that’s pretty equivalent. The next few weeks should show if we are better than last season.”
Slot is fan of Guardiola but appreciates Mourinho: ‘Cupboard of prizes speaks for itself’
Tonight’s match in an undoubtedly swirling Kuip is already a nice gauge of that. Slot is at least hoping for a similar match to last year. “Because that would mean that with the new group we are also able to become threatening and dangerous against Roma.”
Praise for Mourinho
The fact that Romans hardly gave away any chances is largely due to coach Mourinho, Slot argues. The Feyenoord coach himself is more of a fan of Pep Guardiola, the Spaniard who is the antithesis of the Portuguese in tactical terms.
“But if you appreciate Guardiola, that doesn’t mean you don’t appreciate what another coach does,” Slot said.
“It’s incredibly clever what Mourinho is doing. His trophy cabinet speaks for itself. In the end, soccer is not about the most chances or the most ball possession, but about winning.”