José Mourinho’s Roma now know their path to this season’s Europa League final, where they will seek to follow up their UEFA Conference League triumph from last year.
Roma will meet Dutch giants Feyenoord in the quarters, after which Germany’s Bayer Leverkusen or Union Saint-Gilloise of Belgium would be next in the semi-finals. However, Mourinho believes the presence of eliminated Champions League teams devalues the competition.
Of the last eight teams remaining in the Europa League, half dropped into the tournament having been knocked out of the Champions League group phase: Sporting, Juventus, Bayer Leverkusen and Sevilla. As far as Mourinho is concerned, those sides should have seen their continental participation this term ended last December.
“There are teams there who in my view should not be there,” said the Giallorossi boss. “If they are eliminated from a competition, they should go home! So if the Europa League is won by a side that went out of the Champions League, then it will be meaningless to me.
“The Europa League ought to be for the teams who went through the whole thing. I mean, Lazio aren’t going into a third tournament now, are they? That’s how it should be.”
On his side’s chances of another trophy, Mourinho added: “We are not the best team in the world, but we’re a solid group of players. We have already eliminated two quality opponents, RB Salzburg and Real Sociedad. Now we are in the quarter-final with many quality teams, but we’ll see.”
And in typical Mourinho fashion, there was another barb left for city rivals Lazio, who were knocked out of the Conference League – the trophy of which Roma are current holders – by AZ Alkmaar on Thursday night.
“I feel sorry for UEFA, who now have to spend money to ship the Conference League trophy. It could have stayed in Rome, but now instead it’ll probably have to go to Florence.”
By Sean Gillen