Palhinha: "We're eager to get the Champions League started"
The midfielder comments on the task ahead against AFC Ajax
At the press conference ahead of Sporting Clube de Portugal's game against AFC Ajax in the UEFA Champions League group stage, João Palhinha addressed the media.
"We analysed AFC Ajax, just like we analyse all the teams we face. They are a team who need no introduction. We see this as something new. Most of our players haven't played in this competition yet, but we are facing tomorrow's game with great motivation," he told reporters at the Auditorio Artur Agostinho.
"We are looking forward to the game starting and to hearing the UEFA Champions League anthem. I am sure that my teammates, the coach and all the staff feel the same. We are proud to be in this unique position," he added, also explaining that participating in the UEFA Champions League and the UEFA Europa League "makes the players more experienced."
Asked if the duel with AFC Ajax is of special relevance, the Portuguese international midfielder stressed that "all games will be key games."
"We have a tough group. I've heard people belittle our group, but I really think that there are no favourites. We have a group of excellent teams who are used to these competitions. AFC Ajax, like us, are a team with many quality young players. We have many similarities between the two squads. We are two clubs who are committed to youth and have quality in our youth system. It will be a very difficult game, as will the games against Borussia Dortmund and Beşiktaş JK."
"The extra energy comes with representing this club, in any competition. Our thinking and motivation must always be high, because whoever represents this Club knows that they always enter the pitch trying to win," he added.
Finally, Palhinha spoke about his midfield partners, with a special focus on Matheus Nunes.
"We have adapted very well to each other. Matheus [Nunes] is an excellent player, as are Dani [Bragança], [Manuel] Ugarte or [Bruno] Tabata. All midfield players have different characteristics. Matheus is growing visibly, as is Dani and Ugarte. All the young players have grown, and that is due to the work of the coaching staff," he concluded.