PREVIEW Boloni salutes 'miracle' of Leixoes
Saturday 11th May 2002
Sporting coach Laszlo Boloni has warned his side not to underestimate Cup final opponents Leixoes as they look to complete the Double on Sunday. "They are a very brave team who have achieved a miracle in reaching the final," he said.
Thousands of fans have travelled south from Leixoes, a small fishing village on the edge of Oporto, for the game, as the second division side look to repeat their extraordinary Cup exploits of 1961 when they beat Porto in the final.
Sporting are massive favourites to add a 13th Cup triumph, but Boloni is taking nothing for granted. "They are a competitive experienced side who have a lot of players who have played in the first division," he said.
"This is practically a first division team. They have strong, powerful and fast athletes in their forward line, and their midfield has two class players.
"I watched their semi-final in Braga when they won 3-1; we lost 2-1 there in the league. Sporting are favourites, but the Cup is a long way from won. We have to suffer, sweat and fight if we want to win the trophy."
And Boloni is concerned that Leixoes will use the fact that they ar4e underdogs to their advantage. "They will play against us in a calm way," he say. "Leixoes have already gone far, and they won't feel any pressure. Sporting have to be serious and focussed."
Rodrigo Tello, Marius Niculae and Ricardo Sa Pinto will all miss out for Sporting through injury.
Leixoes coach Carlos Carvalhal will be without Nini, Marco Aleixo, Rochinha and Maia, and he is well aware that Sporting are favourites. "It's important that we recognise that we are in a Cup final, that it is a special game; we must act positively so that we can remember it fondly in three or four years."
And he admits that his side have exceeded all expectations. Reaching the quarter-final would have been good," he said. "Getting to the semi-final was fantastic, and making the final is unthinkable.
"Any team that reaches a final has the will to win, although we know that Sporting are clear favourites; we don't have much hope, but there's still a chance we could win.
"Everybody expects us to let in four or five goals. It that happens and Sporting win, people will see it as normal. If we win it would be like a Portuguese team winning in Champions' League."
Carvalhal, though, is not about to adopt a negative approach to try to keep the score down. "Changing our style of play would be the first step to losing," he said. "We must play like we always do. I don't see why should I change"
"In our league we have to win and normally we are better than our opponents. We understand that pressure. In this game everything will be different, and so this game will be the easiest for us in this season. If Sporting let us play as we usually do it's a good step to winning."
Sporting (probable): Nelson (Tiago), Quiroga, Beto, Babb, Rui Jorge, Paulo Bento, Hugo Viana, Bedro Barbosa, Joao Pinto, Nalitzis, Jardel
Leixoes (probable): Ferreira, Jose Antonio, Sergio, Hugo Ramalho,Castanho, Toze, Abilio, Besirovic, Detinho, Pedras, Antchouet
"Strength and honor"
MAXIMUS DECIMUS MERIDIUS