Emiliano Insúa left Liverpool FC last summer to sign for Sporting Clube de Portugal and his Premier League experience could prove useful as the left-back's side take on Manchester City FC in the UEFA Europa League round of 16, kicking off in Lisbon on Thursday. The 23-year-old Argentinian international tells UEFA.com how Portuguese Cup finalists Sporting have come on since Ricardo Sá Pinto took over as coach and how they can stop his one-time team-mate Sergio Agüero.
UEFA.com: Sporting's season has been up and down. What has changed since Ricardo Sá Pinto took charge?
Insúa: The team have changed their attitude. We realised that what we were doing was not enough. Now we are stronger and more united. Each of us is giving 100% and things are clearly better.
UEFA.com: You scored twice early in the UEFA Europa League group stage – did that help you settle in at Sporting?
Insúa: Those goals gave me a lot of confidence at the start of the season, in a very good period for the team. They made me feel I could do something special, and score goals that could really help the team. It helped me to gain confidence when I had only been here for a short time.
UEFA.com: What are your expectations for the Manchester City tie?
Insúa: They are top of the Premier League so we have to be focused and give everything we have. City are a very strong team, as we can see by the excellent season they are having. They have lots of good players, many of them internationals, with some well-known names, especially in attack. However, we have to see that they are not unbeatable – they have lost games this season so we will have our chances.
UEFA.com: You played three times against City in the Premier League for Liverpool, winning 1-0 in the first game and drawing the other two. Can you remember much about those matches?
Insúa: I mainly recall the first match as it was one of my first since coming to England. We won and, in a Sporting shirt,
I hope to maintain that record of never having lost to Manchester City. There is no secret to it, just work and team spirit. Only a united team, faultless in defence, can be successful against City.
UEFA.com: What are the main differences between the English and Portuguese leagues?
Insúa: The main difference is the physical side. The Premier League differs from the Portuguese league and most others because of the enormous importance of physical condition and strength. Here in Portugal, the game is more skilful, slower, whereas in England there is more of an accent on direct football.
UEFA.com: You know City striker Sergio Agüero as you won the 2007 FIFA U-20 World Cup together with Argentina. How can you defend against him?
Insúa: He is a great forward, one of the best I know. From the start, we have to stop him from receiving the ball in dangerous positions. We have to stay close to him all the time and play aggressively so he does not get chances.
UEFA.com: What will you say to him and fellow countryman Pablo Zabaleta when you meet them in Lisbon?
Insúa: That they should focus on the Premier League, which is clearly a more important goal for them than the Europa League!
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