After a week of work at La Turbie, and two days before the trip to face Lyon at Groupama Stadium (9 p.m.), as part of the 8th Matchday of Ligue 1, Niko Kovac gave a press conference with Stevan Jovetic. The coach of the Rouge et Blancs spoke about the match, a week after a draw against Montpellier at home last weekend (1-1). Here are some extracts.
Coach, how do you approach this match against one of the best teams in Ligue 1?
We know that Lyon are a great team, not only in France but also in Europe, we saw that during the last Champions League campaign, where they reached the semifinals. They also played in the Coupe de la Ligue final, which they only lost on penalties. It’s a difficult match ahead of us, but that’s why we play football, to play great matches like this. Regarding the system, the players have understood the way we play, especially in defense, we have conceded very few chances in recent matches, so there is no reason to change anything. And offensively we are working in training to be more clinical in attack.
What can you do to ensure that Kevin Volland is in the best possible position?
Like I said after the match against Montpellier, I know that the level of expectation is very high regarding Kevin Volland and that’s normal for a player of his caliber. He needs time to assimilate to everything, a new country, a new culture, a new league, a new way of playing and he also needs to be well settled with his family. You have to be patient with him. In the last match, it’s true that he played a little differently, to help Wissam. Kevin will show his skills in the next few matches, for sure.
How do you imagine the best system around Wissam Ben Yedder?
All the players are there to help the team and to try to score and support Wissam. He has already scored four goals, but obviously needs players to help him in attack as well as in midfield. We need this support, this support from all our players around him. We worked really well this week in training, I saw some really good things. I realize that in football you have to get results quickly, but when I see what we’re doing all week, I’m not worried.
You have a lot of midfielders …
We have a lot of quality in the midfield, with Aurélien, Youssouf, Sofiane, and we have to have more presence in front of the opposing goal. This is the start, we have only been here three months. We are often faced with low blocks so we have to know how to adapt. We need to change the way we think. We should not ask ourselves whether to get forward on the attacks or not, we have to do it. We’re going step by step and I really believe we’re going to get there, I’m not worried.
How do you see Stevan Jovetic’s return to fitness?
He is a top player who has experience, but he has been injured for a long time and we are going gradually with him. He needs to be protected from his risk of injury. We take care with him but he is improving and showing good things every day in training. He scores, and has also been very decisive with his national side. It is by giving him time that we will be able to accompany him in reaching his best level.
Did you expect to find so many defensive teams in France?
To be honest the defensive level of Ligue 1 surprised me. French players are among those who do the best abroad, and they really have great skills, especially at the defensive level. On our side we are trying to be compact, but it is especially at the attacking level that we need to progress and create more chances to be able to score. I put my team above all, we’ve had possession around 70-80%, but now we have to find solutions to put the ball in the net.
How do you create more opportunites offensively?
When I arrived here, the problem was more with the defense, so I focused on strengthening it. We’ve made a few mistakes so far but I think we’re a lot stronger than before. The second step will be to create more chances, to score more goals. We are not yet 100% at all times to be able to do everything perfectly. This is what we are trying to work on. The players learn a lot on a daily basis and we still need time to have results in all areas of the game, especially offensively.
What points have you worked on with your players this week during the preparation for Lyon?
We prepare for every match in the same way, although we know that they are not an easy opponent. They have changed systems several times in the last few matches and we have to be prepared for every eventuality. There is obviously some information that we share with our players. I also believe that we can compare this match to the one against Rennes, compared to the intensity that we will need to put forward. But as to the rest, I will say that we are not changing the way we prepare for a match, whether it is Lyon or Brest.