Confidence key, says Antunes

Malaga left-back Antunes believes the confidence instilled in the team by Javi Gracia is why results are better this year than last.

Antunes is fit to travel with the squad for Saturday’s game against Atletico Madrid and has spoken of his contentment at La Rosaleda, despite reportedly being close to leaving over the summer.

It was put to Antunes in his interview with AS that he was almost a West Ham player, but he denied he was ever that near to moving on.

“Nobody talked to me. I don’t know if they spoke to my club or my representative,” he revealed.

“With me, nothing. I was always comfortable in the team. In Australia, Germany and then back here, because the Coach put confidence in me. The directors too. I was told they wanted me to stay and I wasn’t listening to anyone else.

Antunes added that Gracia has been the catalyst for the team’s good results as he has led by example in calling for hard work.

“The Coach arrives at 7.30am and stays until nine or 10 at night. That says it all. When he shows you what he does for you every day, you have to do something for him,” he continued.

“For his effort every day we have the information of the team and how we have to play in every game. It’s the job every day. The word that makes you strong is work, the love of the job.

“I like a Coach who inspires confidence. Last year we had almost the same team we have this year, but we didn’t have confidence. That has changed this year and everything has changed.

“If you have a Coach who instils confidence when they talk to you, not only me but the group, it’s a good step forward.”

On the prospect of playing away at Vicente Calderon, Antunes recalled last season, when Malaga went to the capital needing a draw to help avoid relegation and nearly prevented Atletico winning the Leauge.

“It’s a game against a very good and very strong team. They are tactically very well organised,” he noted.

“They’re a clever team and they’re always ready to challenge for the ball. We can see the League table and we know how Atletico play.

“We’ll come prepared. They’re strong on set pieces but they didn’t win the League only on set pieces.

“Last year we needed a point to be safe. We almost cost them the title.”

Tags Antunes Javi Gracia