Tuesday March 10 2020
Ilicic: 'I get better with age'

Josip Ilicic relished his historic four goals against Valencia to reach the Champions League quarter-finals. “Atalanta are no longer a surprise. The older I get, the better I play.”

Mouctar Diakhaby will be having nightmares, as he was substituted at half-time after giving away two penalties thanks to Ilicic moves. Did he pick on the Valencia weak link?

“I just focus on what I am doing, not the defenders who are in front of me. I see a space and I go there,” Ilicic told Sky Sport Italia after a 4-3 victory at the Mestalla.

“I saw he made a sliding tackle that he shouldn’t have done, so if I managed to cut back, he’d inevitably catch me for a penalty. On the second penalty too, it was a wet turf, so I imagined it would take that bounce and hit him on the hand, as it was very wide.

“I tend to only worry about what I need to do, though, not the identity of the defender I am taking on. I don’t really study them.”

This is comfortably Ilicic’s best career campaign and he has scored 21 goals in 29 competitive games this season.

“The older I get, the better I play. I am having fun, I want to keep going and we are really enjoying our football. It’s a pity there are no fans here, but we have to entertain them and make those at home celebrate.”

Atalanta are in the quarter-finals of their first ever Champions League campaign, but are also fourth in Serie A right now.

“I said after the first leg that Atalanta are no longer a surprise. We’ve been doing great things for a few years now and our objective is to prove we deserve to be here, that we want to get even stronger and enjoy every moment of it. We should enjoy it, because it’s not easy to reach this level, but we built up to it over the years, it was no fluke.

“We aim to take on every opponent we come up against in the same way and that’s all we need. I got the goals today, but it’s more important for me to win with the team, as a player without a team can’t do anything. I hope Papu Gomez gets the Man of the Match trophy next time.”

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