Jose Mourinho warns Roma that HJK Helsinki pose a problem similar to Bodo/Glimt, because ‘playing on an artificial surface is not football, it’s another sport.’
It kicks off on Thursday at 20.00 UK time (19.00 GMT) in Helsinki.
The Giallorossi won 3-0 at the Olimpico when these sides met last month, although an early red card changed that game, but sit third in the Europa League group on four points behind Ludogorets with seven and Real Betis 10.
They therefore need a victory here and to hope Betis do them a favour before going head-to-head with the Bulgarians.
“We need a win and it won’t be easy. I said after the last meeting that it would’ve been difficult with 11 against 11, but it won’t be easy for them either. We haven’t come here on vacation,” said Jose Mourinho in his press conference.
“I congratulated their coach in Rome and said he has a well-organised team. There has been an evolution in this area of the world, as before they had some good individuals, but now they have good teams too.
“We want to remain in the competition, we don’t want to try to defend our Conference League title, but continue in the Europa League.”
The Special One has never been shy about his hatred of artificial playing surfaces, so visiting HJK Helsinki is not something he is looking forward to.
He also raised the spectre of last season’s 6-1 Conference League defeat in Norway to Bodo/Glimt.
“I don’t want to stay crying about it, as that would not give us any advantage. We have to play in these conditions, that’s all there is to it.
“I still maintain that playing on an artificial surface is not football, it is a different sport, so anyone accustomed to playing on it has an advantage.
“We played twice on a synthetic pitch last season and lost both of them, including one by an historic result. We were able to show everyone the truth when destroying Bodo/Glimt at the Stadio Olimpico. We don’t have that opportunity tomorrow, as if we lose, then we are out.”