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Team 12 February 2021, 16:49

Niko Kovac: "Lorient is a team to be taken very seriously"

Niko Kovac: "Lorient is a team to be taken very seriously"
The Monegasque coach gave a pre-match press conference, two days before a visit from FC Lorient to the Stade Louis-II (1pm), a match which he is approaching with caution against a team who are currently "in form."

The weeks go by and the matches follow one after another for AS Monaco. After qualifying this week for the round of 32 in the Coupe de France by eliminating Grenoble (1-0), the Rouge et Blanc are back in action in Ligue 1 this Sunday. The teammates of Stevan Jovetić, the match’s only scorer in Isère, will now host the Breton side FC Lorient at 1 p.m. at the Stade Louis-II. Before this crucial match for Niko Kovac and his players, to build on their good run of form, the Monegasque coach gave his pre-match press conference.

Hello Niko. A visit from Lorient has all the makings of a “trap” match, no?

It’s obviously a challenging match. We have seen the latest results from Lorient who have 10 points out of their last 12. I remember the reverse fixture — we won 5-2, but they got a red card that changed the game. So you have to be very careful. It was a tough match, I repeat. They are a good team, we have seen a great improvement in their level in recent weeks. They have more confidence, and in my opinion this is a team to be taken very seriously.

Today you are ten points ahead of Rennes. How do you see things at the moment?

For the moment the situation is very good for us, being ten points ahead. But Rennes have one game in hand so we shouldn’t get carried away. We know that football moves very quickly one way or the other. So nothing is to be taken for granted. We have to stay focused on our performances, and try to stay in fourth place. We cannot count on this lead. It’s also my job to get the message out to the players. This can only be achieved with work.

Stevan Jovetić — has he proven this week that he can start?

I agree that he had a very good match in Grenoble, and not only with his goal. It was an opportunity for him to show us his quality, and indeed he is a possibility to start a match. But I’m currently very happy with the performances of Wissam and Kevin, although I like what Jove is doing. That’s exactly what I want, that players push to be able to have more playing time. It is important to develop our players and to be able to count on everyone. I know I can trust him anyway.

What’s Aleksandr Golovin‘s best position for you?

I asked Golo’what his favorite position is and he said it was playing as a number 10, but that he also liked playing on the wings. And he showed me again against Nîmes that he is also a great attacking midfielder and that he can be very dangerous in that position, playing on the wing. He is a versatile player who allows me to make tactical changes, even in the middle of a match. He’s doing a good job on the flanks, so I think it wouldn’t make sense to change that.

Do you think your team can improve?

We can develop in all areas of our play. But I’m happy with our performance, starting with our response when possession is lost, with very high pressing. If you lose the ball but keep your eyes on the ball to get it back quickly, you will be in a strong position. That’s what I’ve explained to the lads. If we all work to press together we will have to run less to get the ball, so we will be less tired and we can create more scoring chances. Our attackers are doing it very well, with the support of our midfielders. Against Nîmes it was certainly the case, we recovered the ball very high up the pitch and it brought us success, with plenty of space for the attack.

In your opinion, are you still in the race for the podium?

I’ve said it before, I’m not looking at the three teams in front of us, because I know too well the difficulty of Ligue 1. We saw that Paris lost against Lorient, our next opponent, recently. There are still 14 games left to play, so a lot of points to be won but also to potentially lose. Let’s focus on our performance and continue to widen the gap to 5th and 6th. My goal is really to consolidate fourth place.

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