Jose Mourinho is putting his 100 per cent record in major European finals on the line when Roma play Feyenoord in the Europa Conference League final.
This will be Mourinho’s fifth major European final and he has won all four so far – two with Porto and one apiece with Inter Milan and Manchester United. He knows how to get the result in major knockout matches.
The Italians reached the semi-finals of the Champions League in 2017/18 and the Europa League semi-finals last season but a major success has been a hurdle they have yet to negotiate since winning the Fairs Cup 61 years ago. So, Roma are going in search of their first victory in a UEFA-backed final – having previously lost in the 1984 European Cup and 1991 UEFA Cup showpieces.
“I don’t believe in magical potions, I don’t believe in magical spells,” Mourinho said. “There’s nothing special to be done, just us to be us as a team. Knowing the qualities we have, knowing the limitations we have.
“The ‘Special One’ story is an old story. It was when I was at the beginning [of my career]. When you have more maturity and stability, you think more about the people and less about yourself. It’s an old story. I don’t believe in magic – when you arrive at a final after a season of work, the work is done. It’s the team’s moment, not the moment of an individual.
“If I win I will become the first one to win all European trophies, but that’s only if I win.
“We arrived at the end of this season’s journey with two finals to play in four days,” he added, highlighting their 3-0 win over Torino on Friday that guaranteed them a place in the Europa League next season.
“The first one gave us what we deserved and had as our target, which was to play in the Europa League and improve the club’s ranking. We managed to win that final and for me that was a final where you couldn’t make history: you just finish the season’s work and achieve a goal.
“This, however, is history.”
Abraham: A final is a final
Up to 100,000 fans are expected to travel to Albania despite each club being allocated only 4,000 tickets for the inaugural final of the third-tier European tournament.
The competition has been met with some criticism but as it reaches its climax, there is no doubting the importance and excitement it is creating for both sets of teams.
Tammy Abraham has experienced big European nights playing for Chelsea but despite winning a Champions League winners’ medal last season, Thomas Tuchel chose to leave Abraham out of his 23-man squad to face Man City in the final.
A year on, and Abraham will be front and centre for Mourinho after a very impressive first season in Italy. The England international has set a new record for the most goals scored by an English player in a Serie A season following his double in Roma’s 3-0 victory away at Torino on Friday that took his tally to 17.
Abraham is in no doubt about the magnitude of the game and what is at stake: “For me a final is a final, whether it’s the Champions League, the World Cup or the Conference and I want to win it.
“My team-mates want to win it, all of Rome wants to win it. It’s important to us, we want to prepare mentally and physically. This has been a difficult long season, we have to be ready.”
Slot: We know what Roma will do…play long balls
Since the group stages of the inaugural edition of the tournament, Feyenoord are the only undefeated team, with eight wins and four draws.
The Eredivisie side are looking to become the first Dutch club to win a European title in 20 years, since they beat Borussia Dortmund in the UEFA Cup final in 2002.
Manager Arne Slot said he did not expect any surprises from Mourinho’s side having “seen a lot of Roma’s games” ahead of the final.
“We know what to expect, but you never know. Sometimes their coach has a little twitch in his game plan,” Slot said.
“But we’ve seen a lot, so we hope we’re prepared in the right way… We’ve played 55 games so I’d be a bit surprised if he could think of something that we haven’t had yet.
“They almost always have the same style of play. It would surprise me if Roma try to play out from the back tomorrow. I expect them to play long balls over the back of our defence.”
Team news: Mkhitaryan returns
Mourinho said Armenian midfielder Henrikh Mkhitaryan, who has not played since April due to a hamstring injury, has returned to training ahead of the final.
Feyenoord’s first-choice goalkeeper Justin Bijlow is likely to make his comeback from injury, manager Slot said.
Bijlow has been out of action since March after undergoing foot surgery. He previously kept one clean sheet and conceded six goals in five group games and the first leg of the round of 16.
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