It’s time for the Coupe de France this weekend! After traveling to Alsace to face RC Strasbourg on Matchday 28 of Ligue 1, AS Monaco are set to meet OGC Nice for a third derby of the season. After winning both in the league, the Rouge et Blanc will be keen to get a third victory this Monday at the Allianz Riviera, in the round of 32 of the Coupe de France (9pm). Niko Kovac spoke about this special event in a pre-match press conference.
Hello Niko. How are you approaching this derby in the Coupe de France?
For me the Cup is very important. As you know, as a coach I managed to make it to the final three years in a row in the German Cup. I like this competition, as I think the Coupe de France is also very popular in France. So I really want to go further in this competition.
Are you going to make any changes?
We had a day off yesterday. Let’s see what the squad is like today and tomorrow and see who will play. We still have two days to concentrate on things. It’s a derby, and we want to win it, so you can expect the best possible team we can field on Monday. I have something in mind, but like I said I want to see what happens over the next two days. Lille is a week away so we will have time to prepare for this important match. We are going to fully play for qualification against Nice.
Was the loss in Strasbourg a simple accident in your opinion?
I will only be able to answer this question at the end of the next match. This is football, which is also why I repeat to you that we are not equipped enough for the moment to compete for the top three against the three teams who are above us in the standings. Hopefully we will show a nice reaction on Monday. We didn’t show the level I wanted on Wednesday night. I like to have this kind of game after a loss, to bounce back. It’s a derby, and these sort are exciting matches to play. I am expecting a reaction from my players once again.
What do you think happened?
Like I said after the game, it happens. We were on an incredible streak. I was neither disappointed nor angry. When you play at the Casino, if you play red 20 times, at some point the color black will come out. You have to win again to try to start another series. I don’t want to lose games, I am a competitor. But when you can’t win, you have to know not to lose. Let’s forget about this match, Strasbourg performed very well. We simply did not find the right solution against them.
Radoslaw Majecki had played in goal against Grenoble. Will he play against Nice as well?
Yes I am thinking of starting him. But like I said, I have choices in mind, but I want to give myself two days to think about it before making a decision.
Can you give an update on the injured players?
For the moment, we have Guillermo who took a small knock against Strasbourg, so we have to see how he is doing. Gelson is working hard to get back. But as we had with Aleksandr Golovin where we had been very careful with his return, we will do the same with Gelson. Pietro available for the match, but Willem probably won’t be.
— AS Monaco 🇲🇨 (@AS_Monaco) February 28, 2021
What do you think of Stevan Jovetić’s current level performance. Doesn’t he deserve to start?
He offers a lot when he does come on. He has a very positive attitude. As a forward, he wants to score like all of our offensive players. He also gives a lot defensively to help the team. I know he wants to play more, even though Wissam and Kevin are doing very well. He has a great attitude so I’m happy. His future? Stevan is a very good player. We will be considering this at the end of the season, in the final few weeks. With the current situation, and COVID-19, the context of which you know, it is very tough to talk about the future of a player coming to the end of their contract. For now, we are all focused on what’s happening on the pitch.
Has he progressed at the defensive level, in what you ask of your players?
When you are an attacker, you want to score, to create chances. But I expect my players to also bring a lot to the table defensively, in terms of helping the team. He is helping a lot now, and I hope he will continue to progress in that direction. He’s come a long way in that aspect of the game, he has a better understanding of what he’s asked to do, like other players who have needed a little time.
— AS Monaco 🇲🇨 (@AS_Monaco) February 10, 2021
Jorge Sampaoli has just arrived in Marseille. What is difficult for a foreign coach when he arrives in France?
Everything is new when you are a foreign coach in Ligue 1. Beyond the language, there is the league itself, the mentality of the players… You need time to adapt, to learn more about the players . For my part, I was lucky to be put in the best shape by the club, with people who have helped me a lot to adapt. He comes from Argentina where everything is experienced very strongly on an emotional level. I think he is the right coach for this club. He has had great success in his career. We’ll see, but I think he’ll definitely need time to find the right formula.
Why did you decide not to have open training this morning?
We decided to do tactical work. This is the reason why we decided not to have open training after all. Against Strasbourg, we didn’t expect them to play 90 minutes at this level physically. We had possession of the ball, but Strasbourg defended well and Nice might play the same, so we have to prepare for that. We have our principles, and whether in victory or defeat, we want to respect them. We are therefore going to work on them again to better prepare for this derby.