Paulo Sousa has warned his Fiorentina side of the pressure that comes with being top of Serie A as he switches their focus to the Europa League.
A 4-1 win over Inter catapulted Sousa’s men to the summit of the domestic standings, but the Fiorentina coach must prepare his side for the trip to face Portuguese side Belenenses in a game he believes they cannot afford to lose.
Fiorentina entertain Atalanta in Serie A just three days after their trip to Lisbon, but Sousa is intent on ensuring his side make amends for the 2-1 defeat at home to Basel in their first game in Group I.
“How do we feel on top of the table? We have more responsibility, but it is very important to remain concentrated, because otherwise you won’t improve and in fact will be torn down,” said Sousa.
“Without a doubt, the match against Belenenses is more important than the Atalanta match.
“We must be aware of what it means to have lost the first game, and come out focused on bringing home the three points.
“We must always respect our principles of football, because we want to control the game in order to reach victory, seeing as we didn’t start the Europa League on the right foot. My team is going through a general period of growth.”
Sousa will be reunited in Lisbon with former Portugal teammate and current Belenenses coach Ricardo Sa Pinto.
He said: “Obviously I am immensely happy to meet up with a friend like Sa Pinto again. I am pleased he’s getting positive results. It is also special for me to come back home to Portugal and experience a Portuguese stadium atmosphere again.
“In their history Belenenses have always had some difficulties, but were able to overcome them with great results. The statistics show they are as organised and gritty as their coach.
“Anywhere I go to work, I try to stay true to myself and those values that are important to me. That goes from quality of work to efficiency. They are all important. I believe that the humility and strength of every individual player allow us to go forward with heads held high as a team.”
Sousa added that Facundo Roncaglia will face a late fitness test ahead of the game, and that Giuseppe Rossi has “a very good chance” of being in the starting lineup.