Roma s head coach Mourinho looks on ahead of the Italian Serie A soccer match between AS Roma and US Lecce, at Stadio Olimpico, in Rome, Sunday, Nov. 5, 2023. AP
After Lazio beat Feyenoord 1-0 in the Champions League on Tuesday, coach Maurizio Sarri said his team had gone to “war” against the Dutch side, while he deemed Roma’s Europa League game against Slavia Prague later on Thursday to be just a “friendly match.”
Roma’s highly successful coach José Mourinho claimed he wasn’t bothered by the comments but then made a thinly-veiled attack on Sarri, who won the Serie A title with Juventus in 2020 and the Europa League with Chelsea the previous year.
“If someone should feel offended about that comment, it is Slavia Prague and not me,” Mourinho said when asked about Sarri’s remarks. “The way in which the coach talked it’s as if to say that Slavia has no quality.
“I always respect my opponents. Perhaps the difference between a coach who has won 26 titles and another that has barely won anything is exactly that kind of mentality: every match is important, there are no friendly games.”
Mourinho’s long list of achievements include two Portuguese league titles, three in England, two in Italy and one in Spain, along with two Champions League trophies and three other European titles.
However, Lazio beat Roma twice last season and has finished above its capital rival in each of the past four seasons.
The teams head into the derby with Roma in seventh, three places above Lazio but just one point ahead after both had similarly poor starts to the Serie A campaign.
Both now appear to be back on track in the league — although Lazio lost at Bologna last weekend — and in a good position in Europe.
Lazio’s win over Feyenoord left it second in its Champions League group, a point above its Dutch opponent and one behind Atletico Madrid, while Roma has won all three of its Europa League matches ahead of the trip to Prague.
“Roma can allow itself a sort of friendly match on Thursday and we played a war tonight, there is a fundamental difference,” Sarri said on Tuesday. “If you ask me if it’s intelligent to put the derby in the week in which the two teams are playing in Europe, I’ll tell you I don’t think it’s the height of intelligence on the part of the Lega.
“Maybe the Lega doesn’t even realise that it’s a derby here in Rome, I don’t know. It seems at times to be made up of people from outside soccer, it could have clearly been done differently … they (Roma) have a position in the group that they can afford to keep (some of) the team out.”
Mourinho has also criticised Serie A’s governing body for its scheduling several times, notably after Roma’s defeat at Inter, which came three days after its home match against Slavia.
The Lega released a statement last Saturday defending itself from Mourinho’s accusations “of wanting to damage his club” and saying it had been forced to comment because “the accusations threatened the credibility” of Serie A.
“Lazio will have an advantage of 48 hours because they play Tuesday and we play Thursday, but I’m at peace with the Lega this time, I don’t want to criticize anyone. I would be an idiot,” Mourinho later said.
He added Wednesday: “About Sarri’s comments, I would also like to hear the Lega’s reaction, because it was a direct and objective criticism. I’ll wait.”
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