Bruno Lage knows a tough task awaits his players when Newcastle United visit on Saturday but backs his players to find a way of getting the points.
The head coach discussed the strengths Newcastle United possess, but believes the goals will come, particularly after Raul Jimenez got off the mark at Southampton. Having decided the 11 to start on Saturday, Lage will deliver the news to his players before the game and will be ready for battle come 3pm.
On the treatment room latest
“Sometimes no news is good news. Rayan is back, he had all the week with us, so everyone, 17 players and the three goalkeepers are fit for tomorrow. We need to wait more time because they need more time to start work, to be fit, and after more time to train with the intensity we want.”
On confidence building
“It’s good. When you win, the face is not the same, but the motivation to do better should be the same. We are at this point. Confidence comes with victories, but also with a week of hard work we are doing and I’m very happy because what we did in this week was very good. All the players on the pitch try to be better and we did some great sessions, preparing for the match against Newcastle.”
On looking to Newcastle
“They are a strong team and have an experienced manager. They started the season with a line of five, like us, but in the last few games they changed, so now they play in a line of four and the danger comes especially from the forwards. They have strong forwards and wingers, and they’re strong one against one.
“Also, they have a strong midfield, they can manage the ball well and can play behind our midfielders, so they are a solid and compact team, with good players, so it’s going to be another hard game.
“The guys up front can create a lot of problems. If you give them space to run in behind, or space between our defensive and midfield lines, they can create chances on their own, like our players, like Raul did in the last game. The strategy is not only to score goals, but also to protect ourselves from the strengths of the opponent.
“Steve Bruce has a lot of experience, but from our side, we have a strong team. We are in a good way, doing well, and we want to do well against them, especially at our home.”
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On coming across Steve Bruce
“I remember him when I was a kid, he’s a big name from English football when he played for Man United. Then, when I was with Carlos, we played against him a lot of times when he was at Hull and I don’t forget the final we had against them when we played against them in 2015.
“I met with him two months ago and we talked about the games we had. We had a good talk because he was also at Sheffield Wednesday, and we have a good relationship.”
On Jimenez building from here
“The way he is as a man, he’s doing everything calm, he’s a good example that you can be a top player and a top man. He’s comfortable, after what happened with him, he’s living day by day, enjoying the moment.
“He knows now he needs to score more goals for us and we’re here to support, the fans are there also to support, and with goals, more confidence, but he’s in a good way because he’s enjoying the moment – it’s the best way to live our lives.”
On others chipping in with goals
“The concern is if you’re not creating the chances. Sometimes we’ve created five or six good chances and Southampton and we scored. Every game has its own history, the most important thing is to find the spaces to create the chances we want and in the end score the goals to give us the three points.”
On the timing of goals not mattering
“What’s important for me is the end. We know what can happen in the Premier League and also in the Championship in the last ten minutes. You can be winning a game 2-0 and in the last minutes everything changes.
“The way we started the game at Southampton, 30 seconds Semedo had a great chance and the goalkeeper saved. If we started that game with one goal and then don’t have the capacity to hold on to the game. It’s not a problem if you score in the first-half or last minute.”
On the midfield options
“They give a lot for the team. The way they press, the way they play, the way they manage the ball, the way they link with the strikers. Leander gives us the runs to appear in the box like he did against Tottenham – that’s why it’s important to have top players with different profiles.
“When I looked at Southampton and their game against Newcastle and they had 70 per cent possession, and the way they pressed all game against Man City, I thought to myself I need a different role for Joao, number six, and maybe we’ll have more of the ball.
“Neves can do that well and side to side. When we looked at the data, we saw 50-50 in the first-half and when you go there to Southampton and know they want to the ball, and you can divide it and create chances, it’s good for us.
“The game changed with our goal, they had more possession. Ruben was doing well, but in that game I preferred Joao and Leander. Tomorrow, I’ve already looked at the game and made my decision, and tomorrow I’ll tell the players to play against Newcastle.”