The defeat against Lyon does not ultimately change the situation — AS Monaco’s players now have three finals to play, and three wins to be had if they hope to play in the Champions League next season. It was therefore with the serenity of having already achieved the first goal the team had set for itself this season that Niko Kovac spoke to the media, two days before the team’s trip to Reims (Sunday, 5:05 pm).
Hello Niko. How was training this week after the setback against Lyon?
We spent the week analyzing the Lyon game. We looked at video, to identify what had been done wrong. But we also took the opportunity to prepare for Reims, of course. They are not a team against which the team has been very successful historically, so we aren’t thinking that victory is a given. In any case, the boys have been very positive and can’t wait to bounce back from this match.
How will you adapt to your many absences in attack?
We have a few players out, but Gelson Martins is back. We will see what will be possible with Aleksandr Golovin. There are still four or five games to play this season and we will try to play them with the same intensity every time. We are not going to change the way we play despite these absences, starting on Sunday against Reims.
Can you tell us more about whether Aleksandr Golovin will be available?
As we have done in the past with players affected by Covid-19, we are following a special protocol to bring Golo back. We will not take any risks. Football is important, but what matters most is the health of the players. You must test negative, and pass medical tests to be able to resume competition. We don’t want to do anything, whatever the stake. If we have the green light from the medical staff, he will be with us, if not, we will take all of the customary precautions and he will join us for the matches to come.
You will face three teams that you failed to beat in the first half of the season. Does this portend additional difficulty?
Yes, we will have to fight to win these three games. What we have already accomplished is very important. We are already qualified for Europe, and we have the opportunity to achieve more. We will see the results of this weekend, and based on that we will see what we can really play for come the end of the season. Today, my wish is to stay focused on Reims, because there are three points at stake, not nine.
Tell us about the role of Axel Disasi who has returned to the lineup recently …
We have three high-level center-backs. We are very happy with this situation. We also have Djibril Sidibé who can help out in a three-man defense. I’m very happy with his performances at present — he has started the last two games, and even showed he can play on the left flank. Benoît came on during the match and showed a great level. I’m very happy to have such players available.
You are the team that has won the most penalties in Ligue 1. How do you explain this?
We play very attacking football, we manage to create a lot of chances in the penalty area. And obviously, when you have a lot of chances in the box, you win penalties more easily. That’s why we have scored so many goals in this way. It rewards our aggressive, attacking style — it’s actually quite easy to explain.
— AS Monaco 🇲🇨 (@AS_Monaco) April 4, 2021
Are you aware that you can win everything as well as lose everything come the end of the season?
Let’s see what happens game by game. What is certain is that we have our fate in our hands. We are currently third and qualified for the semifinals of the Coupe de France. I’m an optimist by nature, I’ve never been a pessimist, so why would I switch my outlook over the last four or five matches? It’s lucky that we’re at that level at this point in the season. Let’s focus on the last set of fixtures.
Your experienced players will have all the more of a role to play…
Wissam is currently on 19 goals, Kevin has 16. I think they have already shown that they are capable of supporting the team, they are experienced, and they are aware of what we are capable of accomplishing — Cesc, Benjamin and Djibril in particular. Now we are in the home stretch and we have to show that we are a united and strong team.
— AS Monaco 🇲🇨 (@AS_Monaco) May 4, 2021
You have the highest winning percentage at this stage of the season for a manager’s first season on the bench with AS Monaco. Did you expect this when you arrived?
No, I didn’t expect to get these results so quickly, especially with such a young team. It shows in the end that if you work hard enough and work to move in the right direction, you can achieve great things. We are very happy to have already recorded 22 victories this season in Ligue 1. I am very happy with the attitude of my players, who follow the plan, who support the project. Without them, as a coaching staff, we are nothing.
Tell us about the role Cesc Fàbregas plays in the team…
We know that Cesc does not have the same profile as Kevin, although he also has a very important level of experience. He brings a lot of passion to everything he does, and has a remarkable attitude every day. Obviously he would like to play more, he’s a competitor, but there are four or five matches yet to play. He will have the opportunity to play and will inevitably be an asset for us in this crucial period.