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Matches 21 August 2020, 19:00

Niko Kovac: "I can't wait to start against Reims"

Niko Kovac: "I can't wait to start against Reims"
Two days before the reception of Stade de Reims at the Stade Louis-II (1 p.m.), the Rouge et Blancs' coach spoke to a press conference.

Barely more than a month after his arrival at the helm of AS Monaco, Niko Kovac responded to the first time to journalists’ questions before an official match. Sunday, l’AS Monaco will host Stade de Reims at the Stade Louis-II (13h), as part of the first matchday of Ligue 1. For the occasion, the Monaco coach was preceded by Axel Disasi, who was officially alongside Oleg Petrov and Paul Mitchell.

Are you impatient to start this league season?

First of all “Hello everyone” (in French). We are at the end of five weeks of preseason. I think we made good use of this time to work together and get to know the team. We are looking forward to this match on Sunday. We are not nervous — just impatient to start the season against Reims.

What did you bring to the team during that first month?

As I had the opportunity to say at the first press conference, the idea is to play aggressively. I said I wanted to play with more drive when we have the ball. The idea is to keep the ball as much as possible, to create chances, to play offensively but to keep a good balance. I don’t think I’m saying today that our preparation is over. I note, however, that we are on the right track. I think the players have quickly assimilated what we wanted to convey. It’s encouraging for the future.

You have announced that a player has tested positive for Covid-19, what do you think of this situation?

First of all, we are not happy with this situation, but we are focused on Sunday’s match against Reims. It’s not just football that is affected, it is our lives that are affected. We try to focus on what we can control. We are sad, but the medical staff are in direct contact with the player and we hope he will return to us soon.

Are you afraid of the risk of postponing the match?

We have already had our tests this week, everything was in working order. For me there is no risk for the match to be held. The staff are following this very closely.

What kind of match do you expect against Reims?

It’s a very well organized team. They’ve one of the smallest budgets in Ligue 1 and yet the results in Reims have been excellent so I congratulate the coach and the club for that. Fortunately we nabbed one of their best players and we are happy to have Axel among us. They had the best defense in the league last year, but we’re confident in our strengths. Sunday’s game is very early in the day, it will be very hot, we are in the south of France and I think that is a disadvantage for both teams. The team that manages to keep the ball the most will have the chance to win I think. We want to play with plenty of movement and break quickly towards the goal. In particular, we want to become a “top team” again this season.

Do you have the team in mind, will Axel Disasi play?

Axel is ready. He was still training with his former team a few weeks ago. He will play against his old team, I think it will be special for him. Then yes I have my team in mind, and if there are no injuries tomorrow, you will know soon enough who will feature.

What do you think of Axel Disasi?

We are very happy with the signing of Axel. He is very young, he is only 22 years old and at the same time he is already one of the most experienced in our squad. This is to say our team is young but talented. He’s very tall, very impressive athletically, but he’s also fast and that’s going to be an asset. We need that in the way we want to play, with high pressure. We are very happy that he has joined us. He is a good guy and we hope he will continue to take the leap for us.

What did you take away from Onyekuru and Gelson Martins’ performances against Alkmaar?

You have certainly seen how we played against AZ. We played well, we were well prepared to line up in a 4-3-3. But the system is not important to me, it is mainly the attitude of the players that I watch. Henry and Gelson bring us work on the wings, we know their qualities. I have confidence in them, and I think we have one of the best pair of wingers in France.

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