How does the result against Villarreal affect your preparations for Newcastle?
Obviously it’s not the result that we wanted. We managed to score an away goal which is important, but at the end of the day, in a semi-final you need to win at least one of the games. So that is in our hands now, to do it in our stadium and if we do that we have a big chance to be near the final.
In terms of Sunday’s selection can you tell us anything? Is everybody fit and ready?
Let’s see who is available. It was a really demanding game again. The boys have played so many minutes so we will assess them tomorrow when we do the training session and see how everyone is, and try to get the line-up right again.
Has Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang recovered in time to start on Sunday?
He hasn’t trained much. He is still not at the level in his physique that he should be to start. We will see again tomorrow how he is. Yesterday he could only play a few minutes, but we managed to get him on the pitch, which is great news for us. Let’s see how he evolves.
What are you expecting from Newcastle?
Well I’m sure with the position they’re in, they’re going to come at us. They’re a really organised team, they’ve been playing much better recently so it will be tough. With the amount of games that we are playing, every team has the capacity to make it difficult for you.
What have you made of Joe Willock’s performances during his loan spell at Newcaslte?
It was a difficult decision to let him go because we really like the player, but he needed more game-time and needed this type of experience. He has stepped in at big moments for them and scored some crucial goals so that is really good news because it is great for his development.
Would it be fair to say given your Premier League position that you’re having to prioritise the Europa League?
Well, the Premier League is the competition where it is not in our hands to achieve what we wanted to do, because there are other teams in front of us. The only thing we can control is our performances and results and this is our main focus. Then obviously, we know that the semi-final is the crucial moment of the season.
Nicolas Pepe really feels like he’s stepping up in the last few months. What do you make of his development?
I think he’s come a long way in the last few months. His work ethic has been phenomenal, he’s deciding many more games he’s doing what he can do in the final third in a much more consistent way. So I’m really happy with his performances and now he needs to continue like this.
How much is it down to confidence with him?
Well, confidence in every player is crucial. Every time you step on that field, if they feel secure, if they feel protected, if they feel like they’re supported by their manager and their teammates, it’s something that is crucial to to perform. Then with the things that he could do better, he’s doing much better with as well. So it’s all a mix that is reflected in his performance.
At 3pm today until 11:59pm on Monday, all sports channels across the entire Reach network, including football.london, will join the boycott of social media as part of the campaign against online hate.
So far this season players at all of the capital’s top-flight clubs have been subject to horrendous abuse – from Arsenal’s Pierre Emerick Aubameyang and Willian to Tottenham’s Son Heung-min, Chelsea’s Tammy Abraham and Reece James to Crystal Palace’s Wilfried Zaha.
No dressing room has been spared this disgusting plague. Enough is enough.
That is why the Premier League, FA, Kick It Out and Women’s Super League have been joined by clubs up and down the country as well as organisations from cricket, rugby, cycling and horse racing in staging the boycott. Above all they want the social media platforms to take more responsibility for keeping hate out of our sport.
As journalists this is not a decision we take lightly but we believe it is important that Reach titles add their voices to the calls for greater action against the epidemic of online hate and be a force for good in the communities we serve.
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Bernd Leno made a poor mistake last week against Everton but in two big moments against Villarreal he stepped up and kept you in the tie.
Again errors are part of football. We all make them.
It’s about how you react after that and I think Bernd had the right reaction last night again.