UEFA are proposing to create an extra two new Champions League places which seem to favour the English, Spanish and Italian leagues. What do you think of it?
You want to win, you want to be the best. The fact that UEFA are thinking about other possibilities, the game has evolved so much. The challenges that other leagues are facing to try and accommodate in a competition the top, top teams in Europe has become more challenging. They are looking for options to try to improve it, to try and generate more entertainment, more viewers, more diversity and I think it’s something positive.
Cedric was back in the Portugal squad. How proud are you to see him back playing for his country?
It’s not a coincidence. When you have the professionalism, the dedication, the habits that Cedric has, good things happen to you. He’s been patient, keeping quiet and working hard. When he’s had the chances he’s done well and that’s why the national team manager has decided to bring him back, which I’m really happy with.
How much credit do you take for that?
I think the player has to take all the credit and his teammates have to learn a lot about that option. When you don’t play, when you are written off, you can take a completely different route, you can start to blame the coach or your teammates or the environment or whatever, and look somewhere else. What he tried to do was to stay there, to stay focused, to learn more and wait for his opportunity. When he needed to talk, talk on the pitch, don’t talk on the microphone because here is very easy to talk.
Nicolas Pepe suggested he needs to keep working hard to get in the team. Is that what you want to hear?
I want to hear that if that’s an honest opinion. I think with Nico it is because he hasn’t shown anything different to me. I don’t want to find players who have the complacency to accept the situation. They have to want to improve, try to get the player who is playing to a different level and helping the team more. When you have the opportunity, you have to take it.
Does he have that focus and application?
Again, he’s another one. A completely different character to Cedric but every day in his own way he’s trying to help the team when he’s needed.
Patrick Vieira’s Crystal Palace is going to be a big test?
100 per cent. I have experienced a lot of those games and the run that they’re in, the atmosphere we’re going to be playing against. We’re going to have to be prepared and we will be prepared.
Is the away form one of your biggest satisfactions from this season?
If you want to be challenging the top teams in the country there is no other way. You have to be winning home and away. If not you don’t keep up to speed because the top points you expect to finish in those positions is going to be pretty high.