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Amorim: "We're going to play our way in the derby"

By Sporting CP
28 Feb, 2024

The coach previews the cup showdown with SL Benfica

Thursday is derby day at the Estádio José Alvalade, as Sporting Clube de Portugal welcome rivals SL Benfica for the first of two legs in the Taça de Portugal semifinals.

On the eve of the game, coach Rúben Amorim gave a press conference in which he began by deconstructing his team's current situation, coming as they are off two draws.

“I think that in the derby last year we were in a worse spell and that was not demonstrated in the game, which we drew 2-2 against SL Benfica. The second half wasn't so good, but we played very well. Now, we have had two very different draws: With BSC Young Boys we should have won and against Rio Ave FC we didn't do the things we should have done on a difficult pitch,” he said at Alcochete, before focusing on the derby itself.

“Now it’s a different competition, over two legs, so we have to be intelligent in our approach to the game. Obviously, we are going to play our way: Trying to dominate and win, knowing that we are up against opponents with many players of high quality. They are the reigning league champions and are in first place in the table, so it's going to be a good game and we are clearly prepared for it."

Afterwards, asked about the offensive approach he expects from SL Benfica, who have recently been focusing on a more mobile attack, the coach pointed out several scenarios, noting, however, that “the game can become different depending on the players they field."

“We know their positioning and how we cope under pressure, but them playing [David] Neres or João Mário in the same position is completely different, for example. We are prepared for everything, we have watched their games and, even with little time available, we prepared the players for it. We realise that if Rafa plays as a forward, the pace is different from that of Arthur [Cabral] or Tengstedt."

“We have a way of defending that doesn't involve man-to-man marking, so we have to be strong in our principles and understand what type of player we are attacking. On the wings, them playing Morato or Aursnes completely changes their way of defending.”

Amorim also said that he expects a “strong” SL Benfica and that “this year the players will vary more."

"Throughout the match, the key for us will be adapting the way we defend, because when we are attacking we will do it the same way. Above all, it is an important game for us to get a good result for the second leg."

The Sporting CP coach confirmed that both Francisco Trincão and Gonçalo Inácio “are out of the game”, after coming off injured against Rio Ave FC, while striker Paulinho will be back amongst the options.

“Yesterday he was doing work with the physiotherapist, and today he said he felt good. We barely have players for the attack, and he immediately made himself available to play. It reveals a lot about his character and I'm going to put him in the squad, even if he's very limited in the number of minutes he can play. He is always a player who, even on the bench, helps us to be stronger."

He also revealed that Franco Israel will be the starting goalkeeper, as has been the case up to now in the competition.

“We have a cup game and Franco is the starter in it, so Franco will play. Afterwards, we will make our assessment from game to game," he explained.

"I know the squad, I know the options I have, I understand the moment we are in and I know the dynamics that exist within the group. My main objective is to win games.”

Regarding the lower impact of Marcus Edwards currently, Amorim reminded journalists that “these are phases for players and teams. Especially in big games, he has a huge impact and makes a difference.”

In the last three derbies, although they were the first to take the advantage, Sporting CP have been unable to maintain their lead. The coach refuted the idea of a “lack of experience" taking its toll.

“We have to understand the game at each moment and that requires a lot of concentration. Maybe we are the team that receives fewer attacks and concede more goals than other teams, so we have to grow in that aspect and we have to continue to score a lot of goals," he stressed.

"The derby always has a psychological impact, but that can change in the next game and, any case, nothing will be decided tomorrow."

“It has an impact, above all, on the preparation for the upcoming game. Whoever wins this derby and has the best result for the second leg will have more confidence for the rest of the season. Will this decide anything? No. It won't even decide the tie, nor will it define the rest of the league campaign. The big teams take things week by week."