By Diogo Teixeira
José Peseiro is in his first season as Sporting Clube de Portugal coach - and it is coming to an exciting climax.
Tonight they take on AZ Alkmaar in the first leg of their UEFA Cup semi-final, while they trail leaders SL Benfica by just three points in the Portuguese SuperLiga with four matches to play - including a pivotal Lisbon derby. Yet despite the satisfaction of their first European semi-final appearance in 14 years, and being in reach of a first domestic title since 2001/02, Peseiro insists Sporting have achieved nothing yet.
'We want more'
The 45-year-old told uefa.com: "We are playing well, we are providing good entertainment, but we want more. Being in the semi-final is a historic moment for Sporting, but as the final is played in our stadium, we have to think about winning it."
This is a particularly tough week for the Lions. After facing Alkmaar, Sporting will travel to championship rivals SC Braga. "On Thursday and Sunday we have two vital matches," Peseiro said. "Of course, I would like to have more time for the players to recover but we don't, so this demands a great effort from the players and the coaching staff alike in preparing for these games.
Relishing the pressure
But this is what being a professional coach is about and I decided in my first year of college that I wanted to be a manager and not a teacher although I was never a great player." Before joining Sporting, former second division player Peseiro had experienced only one SuperLiga season in 2002/03 with CD Nacional, having led them to promotion. Last term he assisted Carlos Queiroz at Real Madrid CF - another eye-opener.
"I started coaching in the Portuguese third division and that gave me a lot of experience," he said. "I think it is important to start in the lower divisions. Of course, my year in Spain was also very enlightening, although results weren't as good as we would have liked."
One result he would very much like is victory against the Dutch side tonight. "It's a very important match for Sporting and for me," Peseiro said. "We have believed we could reach the final since the start of the season. We just have to play our own game."
The Estádio José Alvalade has staged some fine Sporting displays this season, not least the dramatic quarter-final comeback against Newcastle United FC. "
We like to have the ball and to control the game. When we lose the ball we like to recover it quickly, and to put four or five players in attack. That's why we have been scoring so many goals," explained the coach.
Another incentive for Sporting is to match the achievements of FC Porto in winning this competition in 2002/03 and last season's UEFA Champions League, and further underline the strength of Portuguese football. "Our football is as good as any other European league but they have better marketing," he said.
Former Porto boss José Mourinho's success at Chelsea FC is a particular inspiration. "I think he is an example of the quality of our football," Peseiro said. "Being Portuguese I am proud of what he is doing at Chelsea." Perhaps this May two Portuguese coaches will have European trophies in their hands.
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