UEFA Champions League


Read everything Eusebio Di Francesco had to say ahead of Tuesday's Champions League match against Viktoria Plzen. The game at the Stadio Olimpico gets underway at 21:00 CEST.

You've been calling for a sense of proportion ever since you took over as Roma coach. Before Frosinone and Lazio, it was important to stop the mood being too negative. Do you think a sense of proportion is needed now to stop people getting carried away?
“After the derby, I told the lads we had to keep our feet on the ground – and I stressed the point. We have to keep working away and keep doing the things we're doing. We were excellent on Saturday and winning the derby is a bit like winning two games but we must keep our feet on the ground. We need to be consistent, both in our mental approach and our performances. That's the platform we're building on now.”

What is Alessandro Florenzi's best position?
“Florenzi will play anywhere but he's most comfortable at full-back – that's what he says, anyway. Then of course I decide where to play him. Last year we did superbly with Alessandro at full-back but he can play in both positions and it's an advantage for us when he's available.”

Will you change formation tomorrow given that Daniele De Rossi and Javier Pastore didn't come out of the derby in good shape?
“I've done a lot of work on 4-3-3 in the past and I'm doing a lot of work on 4-2-3-1 now. We can switch between the two systems within the same game. I changed to 4-3-3 when [Bryan] Cristante came on against Lazio and we ended the match playing 5-3-2. Sometimes it depends on the opposition and you can change things mid-game. It's an extra option we have.”

Aleksandar Kolarov played with a fractured bone in his foot against Lazio. Is that the sort of mindset you want from your players?
“I didn't congratulate him on that after the match because I didn't want to draw attention to it but the news got out anyway. Aleksandar did brilliantly. He was desperate to be involved and he's desperate to be involved tomorrow. He's doubtful but you'll have to wait and see what team I pick.”

Is Justin Kluivert ready to play in the Champions League?
“He could be named in the starting line-up tomorrow.”

Does Edin Dzeko need to change his attitude?
“Edin just needs a goal – that's what strikers live for. I was pleased with his contribution in the derby apart from a 10-minute spell and then he did really well again. He was pivotal to our first goal and in lots of other situations. I'm happy to have him even if he is stressed. Strikers need a bit of TLC and he's such an important player for us. I'm sure he'll soon find the net again and then he'll be a bit more relaxed.”

Is Dzeko's lack of goals a tactical issue?
“What am I supposed to do? Play him deeper? He's had chances to score and hopefully that's what he'll do soon. He usually scores stunners but perhaps even a tap-in would help him. I'm happy when the forwards are scoring because it gives them a psychological boost and they can help out more defensively. Goals depend on lots of factors but when you score it clears your head of all sorts of doubts.”

How does your 4-2-3-1 change with Lorenzo Pellegrini in the side as opposed to Pastore?
“[Nicolo] Zaniolo can play there too. [Ante] Coric as well – who, by the way, you haven't seen much of yet but has shown massive improvement in training. It depends on the player's attributes. If I put Pastore in there, I obviously ask him to make fewer runs. He's rather unique in what he brings to the position. He has a knack for producing the unexpected. The other guys track back more and perhaps offer more in possession. Plus they can score too. Obviously the central midfielders are important in this system and so is the work the wingers do because they spend more time on the flank than in the centre. We need to be very good at moving as a single unit, more so than with 4-3-3.”

Can Steven Nzonzi be considered a crucial cog for you in midfield?
“Steven has come on loads. When he first joined us he hadn't even started pre-season training. Sometimes people think you have to be playing to get fully match fit but I can give you a clear example of how that's not the case: Davide Santon. He'd had virtually no game time whatsoever and then he played 90 minutes twice in a row. If he hadn't been training properly, he'd never have been able to do that without seizing up with cramp. Training well lays the foundations for good match performances. People were saying we weren't in good physical shape but how could I have changed all that in just six days? Football is about bringing physical, technical and mental attributes together. You won't get far unless you have all three things.”

You seemed to have settled into a 4-2-3-1 system but you're missing a few players now. Will that mean you have to revert to 4-3-3?
“I don't like changing too much but you need to be able to understand situations. There's been a lot of talk about Viktoria Plzen and I think they're a very difficult side to play against. They're very strong and in [Michael] Krmencik they have a striker with huge potential. He gets into defenders' faces and he's good at running into space. Regardless of our formation, we must be aware that we're playing a side who can match us physically so we have to make our technical ability count. Our formation has no bearing on that. Tomorrow I'll pick the players who are in the best shape to perform.”

Is Robin Olsen now adjusting better to his defence?
“He comes from a league where football is totally different to how it is here. He was always looking to play the ball high up to the striker. He’s done a lot of work, though. He’s playing well with the ball at his feet, trying not to just boot the ball, and has made himself available to his team-mates. When the ball is up the other end he’s taking up good positions. But he needs to do more work higher up the pitch, taking the risk while knowing an opposing player could try and shoot towards goal from 50 or 60 yards out. He’s learning the terms we use and the language, which are fundamental for communicating with his team-mates.”

Is Luca Pellegrini ready to start?
“Luca Pellegrini needs to keep working, keeping his feet on the ground. He’s played 15 minutes of Serie A TIM football. He came on against Frosinone at 3-0 and that was not random – he deserved it. He could well start one of these games. He’s an option that I’m considering, because he’s improving. It depends on him. Often, it’s not managers that decide line-ups, but the players themselves, their attitudes, and the availability of their team-mates.”

(Photo Getty Images)