Gracia: “We Know We Can Beat Them Again”
Watch Javi Gracia's pre-match press conference above, or read on below.
By Kevin Affleck
There are plenty of seminal moments in the season.
There was Troy Deeney knocking over Davinson Sánchez against Spurs; José Holebas out-sprinting Richarlison after giving the Brazilian a head start, and then Gerard Deulofeu racing back to catch up James McArthur in the FA Cup quarter-final and defending like a tough-tackling full-back.
But, on a team front, the win at Wolves in October put a real marker down. It provided the perfect response to the going-over the team got at home to Bournemouth, showed the win at Burnley was no flash in the pan, and came against a side who had won four Premier League games on the spin. It was a real statement.
“It was a very important game for us, playing away and the way we did it,” said Gracia. “We dominated the game, with control of possession. We scored on counter-attacks but we dominated possession. It was a very good moment. We were getting good results away and this gave us confidence to keep going and to have the confidence in the way we were playing and the way we were working.”
The result knocked the stuffing out of Wolves. They lost five of the next six and Nuno Espirito Santo has since changed things up, bolstering his midfield by bringing in Leander Dendoncker, partnering him with Rúben Neves at the base of the midfield and playing João Moutinho further forward.
“Then they were playing with other players and even in another shape,” said Gracia. “They have changed some things in the team, but we did it one time and we can do it again. We know we can beat anyone, and we can lose to anyone. Both teams are playing well, getting points and we are both enjoying a good season. I think it’s a good moment for both teams. We both have good squads, are good teams, and I think it will be a good game. It’s a moment to show what we are able to do. We have to be ready to give 100 per cent.”
Gracia will be leaving no stone unturned in his preparation. When in charge of Ruben Kazan, he lost to Ural Yekaterinburg in the semi-final of the Russian Cup in April 2017 and he does not want to experience that sinking feeling again.
“It’s worse to lose a quarter-final and in rounds before that,” he said. “We have the chance to go to a final at Wembley with our supporters and it is many years since we did it. We have to enjoy it. The end is not important. What is important is to enjoy the semi-final as you never know when you are going to play another one. It will be my best achievement if we reach the final.”