Fiorentina midfielder Alberto Aquilani has been forced to defend both his past and recent performances ahead of tonight’s second-leg of their Europa League last-32 tie against Tottenham Hotspur in Florence.
Aquilani, 30, watched last week’s 1-1 draw at White Hart Lane from the bench due to fitness issues, having seen injuries restrict him to just 12 starts in 20 total appearances this season.
The former Liverpool man is in contention to return to the line-up for the return leg, however, and hit back at claims in the pre-match press conference that he has something to prove against English opposition following his past Premier League struggles.
“I don't think anything has to click with me,” he said, sitting alongside head coach Vincenzo Montella.
“When I play, I always give it my all. I don't have to prove something each time I take to the pitch. I try doing in the field what the Coach asks of me.
“Of course this is a particular moment for me as I'm just coming back from an injury. I have to find my pace and my confidence on the pitch again.”
Aquilani is out of contract in the summer, and has been linked with a move to MLS expansion side New York City FC, per MLSsoccer.com, but the Italy international insists he’s relaxed about the situation.
“As for my contract, we'll talk of that later,” he continued. “Let's take things step by step.”
After moving to Liverpool from Roma in August 2009 for £17 million, Aquilani would go on to make 18 league appearances during his debut campaign, before spending successive season-long loans at Juventus and AC Milan.
Shipped off to Fiorentina on a permanent deal in August 2012, the 37-times capped Azzurri star knows full-well the threat Premier League opposition poses, but believes his side’s crucial away goal from the first-leg will stand them in good stead for Thursday night's clash.
“I think the Premier League has developed even further, especially as far as pace goes,” he added. “This doesn't mean that our own League is ugly, though.
“We want to progress in this competition even though we're up against a very important team.
“The game is going to be very difficult. They will come here to win in spite of our initial advantage.”