8th March, 2012
Despite a nine-game unbeaten home run in Europe, Sporting Clube de Portugal go into today’s UEFA Europa League round of 16 tie against Manchester City FC as underdogs. Yet midfielder Marat Izmailov warned that they were “detemined not just to make up the numbers” against City in an interview with UEFA.com in which he also underlined his admiration for City’s David Silva.
The 29-year-old looked ahead to UEFA EURO 2012, explaining that he expects Russia to be “very competitive” at the tourney, revealing that he still harbours hopes of making Dick Advocaat’s final squad.
How would you rate Sporting’s chances against Manchester City?
In my opinion, Manchester City are the third best team in the world at the moment behind FC Barcelona and Real Madrid CF. They are 100 per cent favourites in our tie but we are determined not just to make up the numbers but to qualify. If we beat a team like City we will have a good chance of winning the competition.
Who do you think is City’s best player?
David Silva. I have always admired players like him. He has a great football brain and is very good on the ball.
How have the team taken to new coach Ricardo Sá Pinto?
No matter what people say or write about him, the team have a lot of respect and even affection for the coach. He is a coach who is worth fighting for, when you take to the pitch.
You missed most of the season with injury. Why did it take you so long to recover this time?
In the autumn, I suffered a recurrence of a knee injury. It was clear from the outset that the recovery would take a few months and then I’d need some time to regain my fitness. Now all the problems are behind me and I feel good, although there is still room to improve my fitness.
With EURO 2012 just around the corner, what are your expectations for Russia?
Our group is not easy but we still have a good chance of making the knockout rounds. It is too early to predict what will happen and football is a very unpredictable game but I am sure Russia will be very competitive at the European Championship. If I play my best and Sporting do well in the league and the Europa League then I might still have a chance of going to the finals.