What is the team´s health status ahead of the match with AS Roma?
"A chance to play against AS Roma can recover, so the squad is complete except for Petr Ševčík, who stayed in Prague and is recovering from an injury suffered in Geneva. Everyone trained on Tuesday, healed their scratches, and are available. Of course, something can still happen during the pre-match training or morning warm-up, but currently, it looks good."
Do you also remember the memorable match from 1996?
"I know some of the the veterans. It was an exceptional season for Slavia back then, a huge success. I watched that match on TV in the living room. From a single action, Jirka Štajner set up Jirka Vávra with a header, and he scored as if from nowhere. It was a match that history remembers as a happy loss. It confirmed a huge success that culminated with a tie against Bordeaux. It felt fantastic to be here. I love these stadiums with history; visiting such stadiums is the biggest experience apart from the game itself. You can immerse yourself in the history that breathes from the walls, feel the big matches that took place here. You feel it from the moment you arrive at the garage. I´m excited that we can visit such a football shrine and city."
Will this be the biggest match in recent years?
"Absolutely. First, we were hit by COVID, which emptied the stadiums, and then came the Conference League, in which most European powerhouses are missing, even though its quality is very high. I´m extremely excited; I would compare this match to the level of the Champions League. We´re playing in a football shrine against José Mourinho´s selection. A team that reached the finals of European competitions twice in the past two seasons and has several stars in its squad. It will be a huge experience for the entire Slavia, and we can´t wait for it."
Jose Mourinho has praised you a lot lately. He said Slavia is like a team from the Champions League. Do you perceive it as part of the mental battle before the match or as a great compliment?
"First of all, maybe he didn´t see our match in Teplice; perhaps it´s a mistake because he won´t underestimate us. As coaches, we watch many of the opponent´s matches and can estimate the opponent´s strength. One thing is the quality of the players, and another is a kind of script. You perceive what kind of opponent stands against you. There are players and a system facing you. Those were nice words, and we have to try to fulfill them and confirm them on the field here and in two weeks in Prague. That would be the greatest honor for us."
What message would you send to Mourinho?
"He is the greatest coaching legend, an icon from my younger years, ruling the football world. I watched Chelsea matches with Drogba, Čech, Kanté, their famous era. As I said, he´s the biggest coaching icon for me. Even though we´ve been in Europe with Slavia for seven years now and have had significant matches, this is absolutely exceptional for us. We appreciate that we can meet him as Slavia."
Mourinho said at the press conference that he sees Slavia in two positions. In the derby, tough, sometimes beautiful. What would you like Slavia to be on Thursday?
"The derby was a specific match; I hope it never repeats. There were 38 minutes of actual play, it wasn´t football, but something else. For me, the biggest wish is for Slavia to show courage on Thursday. In the past, we managed that even in big matches. Most of the players will experience such a match for the first time; I believe they will stand up to it. We know that a large group of fans will arrive. I want them to experience Slavia as bold and active. We will try to match the opponent in all aspects, maybe even surpass them in some."
You and José Mourinho have different football styles, but despite that, did he inspire you in any way?
"Absolutely. I know many coaches who have tried to imitate him. I have two books at home that cover his life. I´ve read them many times. When you mention him anywhere on the planet, everyone will know who he is. That speaks for itself. I mainly remember the campaign with Inter Milan in the Champions League and his connection with the players. Back then, he let Materazzi play the final minutes of the final, so he has a magical connection with the locker room, and at the same time, unshakable respect radiates from him."
Given the situation in the group, you are playing for the first place. How does that feel for you? Is it advantageous to play the first match away?
"I would prefer to play the first match at home because we usually excel in the first game to demonstrate our quality, and the opponent is better prepared for the second match. We are happy to have six points after two matches. Now we face a battle for first place. We have a well-started group, and on Thursday, we need to work to maintain this position. The remaining two teams have zero points and will play against each other, so at least one or both of them will score. We entered the group well, and now we have a great two-game match where we can reach the current ceiling of the newly forming Slavia."
Will you reveal another name from the lineup according to your European tradition? Apart from Tomáš Vlček.
"I´m glad you asked that I don´t have to invoke it (laughs). Tomáš was not clear, but he will play. That´s the first thing we revealed. I don´t know what else I could reveal that might interest you. But Lukáš Masopust will play, again in a non-traditional position for him, which we hope he handles as well as the previous ones."