Lage | On the internationals, Jimenez's form and Villa

Bruno Lage says his players are in good spirits, with some having returned from international duty, and the focus is now on maintaining momentum at Villa Park.

Back-to-back victories ended the previous round of fixtures for the old gold and a trip to Aston Villa begins a fresh cycle on Saturday, and brings with it the occasion of a lively West Midlands clash. Speaking during his press conference on Friday, the head coach revealed the latest on Francisco Trincao’s recovery from Covid, discussed Raul Jimenez’s form and reiterated the hunger in the group for a strong performance on Saturday.

On being back from the internationals

“These days, we don’t have time to work, so that’s why today was a busy day, because some players arrived today. It was two weeks without players, and we tried to do our best to prepare the game, and I think we did a good job, everyone knows their job, everyone knows what we need to do tomorrow to do a good performance and win the game.

“When you are in the competition, every time you want to compete. When you lose, you want the next game to appear in a few days and when you’ve won, it’s the same. In this moment, we are doing well, some good performances, some good results.

“Against Newcastle we did a good performance, we played against a strong team, and the way we played our game was very good, especially the first 35 minutes, I think we did the best of our game, when we had the ball and when we didn't have the ball. In these two days, we’ve reminded the players what they did against Newcastle and put our minds to do the same against Aston Villa.”

On players having long trips

“We watched the games and they played well for the national teams. Raul scored one more goal, so we’re very happy with him. Hwang played well against Iran. I’m happy with the players and they came with happiness because we are in a good way, so today and yesterday was to focus on our moment. That’s why we analysed what we did in the previous game and prepared the best way for the next one.”

On Trincao’s Covid absence

“He’s OK. He started training, not with us, but at home, we did everything we can to have him training, so when he comes back, he already has some training. He had two or three days where he didn’t feel well, but now everything is OK with him. All the players are vaccinated twice.”

On a local clash

“We know we’re going to play against a strong opponent, maybe one of the best teams in the league because they’ve invested a lot to try to arrive in a different position. Top players, a top coach, a top club, so they’ll try to do a good season, but we’ll try to do a good game against them.

“That comes naturally [to the players]. They know it’s an important game, in this league every game is important, derbies are important, and the players want to win this kind of game to offer the victory for the fans.

“I already had some, I know what it means, derbies like Benfica and Sporting, like Sheffield Wednesday and Sheffield United, I know the meaning of those games for the fans. We are ready to do the same since we did the first day, go there to try to do our game, and to offer three points for our fans.”

On experiencing rivalries

“It depends how the teams are doing. In Portugal, Sporting and Benfica every time fight for the championship, so it’s different. Here, because the competition is so high, sometimes the clubs are fighting for a position in mid-table, so it depends in the moment, but when you go to a derby, you forget your position, you forget the past, and you are just focused on winning that game because you know the important of the game for the fans, for the club.

“When you play a derby, they know the meaning of the derby [the players]. We have guys who’ve played derbies in Portugal, Belgium, Spain, so they know the importance of the game and they get involved with that.”

On handling Villa

“When you look at the games they did since the beginning of the season, you can see the way they play, so I know Dean’s work since he was at Brentford, we played against him when I was at Sheffield Wednesday, so know his style, it’s a little bit like ours.

“He wants to play, he has three midfielders who try to link the ball, so it’s going to be a good game for us, and I think the most important thing for both teams is to understand what they need to do when they have the ball to create problems for the opponent.”

On Jimenez hitting form

“Since the first day I could see a guy who tries to recover, not from the injuries he had, but the time he lost. We’ve trained hard, I remember the first three or four games he didn’t score, but he created a lot of chance.

“Raul is a good example, and sometimes we talk about it with the strikers, just work more in the offensive way. Raul is the kind of striker who can give us the two moments. It’s very good when we are defending the press, he’s our first defender, and then he’s a top striker who can assist and score goals. I didn’t see what happened in the past, I saw what happened with me, and I see a guy return to do great things for the club.”