Jose Mourinho interrupted by Roma stars celebrating Conference win
Jose Mourinho has aimed a sly dig at his fellow former Chelsea coach Maurizio Sarri as the AS Roma boss stoked the fire by renewing his war of words with rivals Lazio. Mourinho has never shied away from playing mind games in press conferences and the Portuguese was up to his old tricks in trying to lure Sarri into a verbal battle, as the clubs prepare for a tense finale in the fight for a top-four spot in Serie A.
Both Roma and Lazio were well-positioned to finish in the Champions League qualification places before Juventus’ 15-point deduction was overturned on Sunday, meaning the Bianconeri have climbed back into third in the table.
Lazio have a solid advantage in second on 61 points and are five points clear of their capital rivals Roma with seven games to go, following the Giallorossi’s 3-1 defeat away to Atalanta on Sunday.
It came just three days after Roma’s emphatic 4-1 win over Feyenoord to send them through to a second successive European semi-final, having won the Europa Conference League last season.
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And Mourinho made a clever attempt to deflect attention from their defeat in Bergamo by highlighting Lazio’s exit from the Europa League at the hands of AZ Alkmaar in the last-16 knockout round, suggesting Sarri’s side have taken the easy way out by focusing only on their domestic ambitions.
“Maybe a defeat against Feyenoord would have been better to fight until the end to get into the top four. But I’m not used to choosing between Europe and the league,” Mourinho was quoted saying by Gazzetta dello Sport. “I’m not used to going out of Europe to focus on Serie A.
“If I had done that, at this point we would have only had seven more games and could focus on those, without pressure or excessive worry.”
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Roma were some way short of their best after Mourinho decided to leave the likes of Paulo Dybala and Nemanja Matic on the bench against Atalanta.
And he suggested some members of his squad were not up to the standard of the star-studded players he once had at Chelsea and Real Madrid, which enabled him to juggle several competitions at once.
“In my career I’m used to having top squads, with 22-24 interchangeable starters. Once Benzema and Higuain played, I used to line up Drogba and then Crespo,” the 60-year-old added.
“But we want to go ahead in both competitions. I know there is a risk of not winning the Europa League and falling out of the top four in the league, but there is also a risk of winning the cup and finishing in the top four.”
Mourinho will certainly point to his record of three Premier League titles and triumphs in Serie A and La Liga as proof that he has the managerial edge over Sarri, who claimed the Serie A title with Juventus in 2019-20 and won the Europa League with Chelsea the season before.
But with Roma fighting on two fronts, it is feasible that Mourinho could end up without a trophy and Champions League football next season if he does not prioritise one competition.
And his comments could yet backfire on him if Sarri guides Lazio to next season’s Champions League at their expense.
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