Trabzonspor coach Hami Mandirali has hailed tomorrow’s Europa League Round of 32 first leg against Juventus as an important challenge that he believes his men can rise to.
Mandirali has only very recently been drafted into the club dugout, making the step up from assistant to Mustafa Ackay after the latter resigned in the wake of a string of bad results which culminated in a 4-2 home defeat to Akhisar Belediyespor ten days ago.
But the former Trabzonspor player is nonetheless confident that the team are all set to take on the champions of Italy.
Speaking to the media at Juventus Stadium this afternoon, Mandirali began: “We’re happy to be here: it’s a very, very important game. We’re playing against a considerably strong side, but we’re well prepared. Both the players and myself are ready for this game.”
Mandirali is a popular figure at the club, having made more than 400 appearances for the Turks, but he stressed that it’s a very different prospect approaching a game of this stature from the dugout.
“I have different feelings now, but I’m sure the players will put any sentimental emotions aside and do their very best on the pitch. A good result would be a success not only for us but also for Turkey as a nation.”
“Juventus could be considered favourites, but we’re not just here to make up the numbers. Europe inspires something extra in players compared to how they perform in the domestic league, and I hope my men will respond.”
Sitting alongside his boss in Juventus Stadium’s press conference suite was midfielder Didier Zokora, and he echoed Mandirali’s belief in a change of mentality when lining up on a European night.
The Ivorian midfielder added: “We have a different motivation, because the Europa League pits you against really strong teams and so you want to stand out and demonstrate your talents.”
“We know full well that we’ve got a tough test ahead. They’re a strong team - the likes of Tevez and Vidal are the very best in Italy - but we also have good players. I have full confidence in my team-mates and the coach.”