Pires : «The underdog status suits us well!»

wed 16 may at 15:00
Photos © 
Present in Lyon tonight, Robert Pires looks forward to kickoff between OM and Atletico de Madrid. After disappointments 1999 and 2004, the former Olympien hopes that Dimitri Payet and his team-mates will lift the cup.

We are just a few hours from the start of this final between OM and Atlético de Madrid. What’s running through your mind?

"I am at this final as a supporter of OM. I am tense, impatient and excited. I can not wait for it to start."

Atlético de Madrid is the favorite of bookmakers ...

"Indeed, since Atlético fell back to the UEFA Europa League, it has become the natural favorite of this competition. It is a very ‘big’ club in Europe. They have twice reached the final of the UEFA Champions League in the last four seasons (in 2014 and 2016). Those are great performances. But despite these incredible results, I believe in OM. In a final, there is always a favorite and an underdog. OM are the underdog of this meeting and I think this status is perfect for this team."

What are the main qualities of Madrid’s team?

"For me, the strength of this team comes from its defense. It's a wall, a real challenge. Atlético have conceded only 20 goals in La Liga. It's the best defense in the Spanish league, ahead of FC Barcelona and Real Madrid. Their goalkeeper, Jan Oblak, is one of the best at his position in Europe. In front of him, Diego Godin is a true pillar. In attack, Antoine Griezmann is also one of the world’s top players. This is the number one danger of this team. Beyond these individuals, it is also a group that, beyond its defensive qualities, can attack very quickly. Rudi Garcia will have to find solutions to destabilize this opponent. It's not going to be easy, but OM also has weapons."

Which ones?

"First, unity. I feel that this group is bonded and strong. Players know how to react even when they are trailing. They have come back several times lately. And OM hasa player of the caliber of Dimitri Payet. In modern football, this is priceless. A final can be played in the minor details: on set pieces. Whether on a corner or a free kick, Dimitri can find the crack at any moment of the match. In addition, he is currently in great form.”

Florian Thauvin also had a great season. But he is still the target of some detractors. What do you think?

“He's a great player. I’ve always supported him. This season has been incredible, it is a continuation of last season. I find him more and more confident. He showed a great consistency. The critics? They are unfair. Florian will shine in this final. He must not get tense and change his way of playing."

We are eager to see the Adil Rami / Diego Costa duel ...

"It can be tense between the two (laughs). Adil likes to play against this style of players. He is intelligent and has the necessary experience not to fall into the trap of Diego Costa, who will play the instigator. Adil should be able to control it."

What is your view on the work done by Rudi Garcia?

"Since he arrived in Marseille, he has not been given any shortcuts. He was very criticized. The results have proven him right. His work is now celebrated. He is a very great coach. He’s a supporter. He knows his players perfectly. He manages to create a real group. We feel that everyone plays for the collective first and foremost."

What is your prediction for this final?

"I believe in OM. I see a 2-1 victory. I hope the Olympiens will succeed where we failed."

You are referring to this 1999 final against Parma. Nineteen years later, what memories do you have of this meeting?

"It's a bad memory. Because a final is played and won. And we lost. We had a very big team in front of us. We did not have all the assets on our side with a lot of absences. Would the spell have been different with a full complement? Hard to say. But this remains a painful moment for me. I would have loved to win a title in the white and blue jersey. That's all I want from current players."

What messages do you want to send them?

“I believe in them. That they will take advantage of this final and that they play without hindrance. In a final, you have to give everything and have no regrets after the final whistle blows!"

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