Simon Mignolet has been vital to our change in fortunes…
The vast majority of Liverpool fans will be glued to their television sets on Sunday as the Reds march out at Wembley for our FA Cup semi-final against Aston Villa.
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Those that are lucky enough to be there will, hopefully, see a team who are desperate to secure victory for a whole host of reasons – not least the chance to send club captain Steven Gerrard out on a high prior to his summer switch.
For goalkeeper Simon Mignolet, it will be the chance to complete an incredible transformation from Kop flop to Anfield hero. The once under-fire Belgian has kept 12 clean-sheets since the turn of the year but needs to continue that kind of form if he’s to book his place in the side for the significant future.
Speaking to our official website ahead of the game, Mignolet discussed both personal and team success so far in 2015, something which he is understandably keen to capitalise on with a first piece of silverware.
You can read his full interview below:
What has been the key to your consistency since you regained your place in the team?
Together with the team, since we changed the system at the turn of the year, we have been very solid at the back. We have defended really well and we have done our jobs brilliantly on set-pieces and crosses coming into the box. We have been a lot more solid defensively and obviously that is always nice for a goalkeeper. We have kept clean sheets all together as a team and we have to keep that going until the end of the season.
Personally, how do you contrast the beginning of the season to now and how much satisfaction do you take from it?
It’s always nice to keep clean sheets – that’s what you are a goalkeeper for. It’s always satisfactory when you come off the pitch with a win, because that’s what you want to do. Together with the team, to get victories is the most important thing. And if you can keep clean sheets as a goalkeeper, it’s very good for confidence and will only make it easier to play the next games. Confidence-wise, I’m in a good place together with the rest of the squad. We want to keep that going until the end of the season.
Does that mean you see a top-four finish as still on, as well as the FA Cup?
We want to do both, let’s hope we can do both. We’ve got the FA Cup and the league still to play for and we want to do well in every single game until the end. The next game coming up is the FA Cup semi-final, so the focus is on that. You don’t really choose between your mum and dad, so we still have two things to play for and we’ll try to do that until the end of the season.
Benteke is in a bit of form at the moment. Is he the man you have to stop and are you doing anything special in the build-up?
We have to stop Aston Villa and look at ourselves to perform the best we possibly can ourselves. We want to perform the best we possibly can and we’re trying to focus to do that, to make sure we prepare ourselves the best we can and put in the performance we want to. Like every other game, we’ll analyse the strengths and weaknesses of the opponent and make sure we’re ready for that.
What sort of things will you do?
Together with the coaching staff, we’ll always analyse certain things of the opposition – their strong points and weak points. We always do that and we get prepared in a very good way.
Has he been flagged up as a danger man?
He has been scoring goals lately. Together with [Gabriel] Agbonlahor they have got a lot of pace up front. They have got that strike force. But where we’ll put the focus and emphasis is making sure that we get our performance right in the first place and make sure that we do the best we possibly can.
What difference does the Wembley factor make?
It’s a legendary arena where a lot of history is made. Obviously you want to go out there and enjoy the moment. Hopefully we can create some history for ourselves as well. It was 2006 when Liverpool last won the FA Cup – we don’t to wait until 2016 for the 10-year anniversary, we want to do it this year. On a personal level, if I can win the FA Cup I think I would be the first Belgian goalkeeper to win it. That would be nice as well. History can be made, but first we have to get past Aston Villa. We want to get through.
Do you feel that Wembley is a good stage to showcase the talents that you have here?
It is nice to go out in such a legendary arena. I have played there with Belgium in a friendly against England. This is something different with your club, to play a semi-final of the FA Cup to get through to the final. It is something to look forward to and that is very exciting for every professional football player and just the same for me.
On Benteke, have you had any contact with him?
Not this week but obviously we spoke about it when we last met at the international camp. We still had to play Blackburn at that stage but we knew that if we were going to progress, it was going to be me and him to meet up. We spoke about it when we were there.
How important is it to deal with the occasion? It’s not a final but it’s different to a normal FA Cup game, so how do you deal with the occasion?
We have to deal with that in a professional manner, thinking about the game we want to play and the performance we want to put in. That’s what the focus has been on this week together with the team, to make sure that we don’t think about the occasion too much but more about our jobs. That’s what we’ll try to do on Sunday.
And just a word on Philippe Coutinho, who has been nominated for the PFA Players’ Player of the Year award. How brilliant has he been this season?
He is scoring a lot of goals and doing really well for us. We see every day in training the brilliance and ability he has got. Let’s hope he can keep doing that for us, he’s very important. Hopefully he can score a few goals on Sunday.