UEFA Europa League


See what the boss Luciano Spalletti had to say after Roma's 4-0 victory over Villarreal in the first leg of their Europa League knockout tie.

Where did you win the game today?
“We played well for a start and the quality of our football made the difference – Edin [Dzeko] especially. He did brilliantly to find himself in the box at the right time. We were a bit tense at the start of game. We're not always completely sure of ourselves in Europe and hopefully this result will give us the added conviction we need. We're a very good team and even when we're two-up we must keep pushing forward trying to get the third and the fourth.”

Has Italian football improved Dzeko?
“He's quite a sensitive lad and he feels the weight of responsibility. When things weren't going well he was upset about it and got worked up as a result. Then he started showing people what he can do again. His first goal today was brilliant – real thoroughbred striker stuff the way he shook off his marker. He's a great player and if he can find the right balance he'll become an exceptional player.”

Would it be easier to win the Europa League if Zlatan Ibrahimovic wasn't playing in it?
“What matters is we keep playing our own games and producing our quality brand of football. We have top-class individuals capable of winning matches.”

Has the team improved in their reading of the game and game situations?
“We are improving but when we went 1-0 up we found ourselves dropping off and we let them take control of things more. We'd win the ball back but weren't able to turn the move into a counter-attack – we kept losing it too quickly. We have made progress but we still have work to do. Anything is possible because we can defend, we can attack and we can keep possession in tight spaces. Sometimes when we win the ball we're not able to make it completely ours and it ends up being no one's ball. These things matter because every time you lose the ball you use up energy chasing it and the team clocks that all up as extra effort.”

You've improved lots of players individually: Dzeko, [Federico] Fazio, [Antonio] Rudiger, Emerson, [Kevin] Strootman after two operations, even [Daniele] De Rossi has experienced an upturn in form. Is it the team that's improving the individuals or the work done with individuals that's improved the team?
“It's a bit of both. If you're more compact as a team, that helps the players to do better individually. But it's the players' individual ability that makes the team better. We needed a strong backbone to the side and that's definitely something that's improved. We're better as a team and that's the biggest benefit for us at the moment. We have another game in two days' time and we need to recover our strength. I'll have to make a few changes but you'll see that the lads who didn't play tonight are just as good as those who did. We're a strong squad and that makes the individuals stronger.”

Do you think about winning this competition? Is it an incentive for you?
“We've never been shy about wanting to win it but you have to know how to deal with games like tonight's. We've put a good run of results together – we're seven unbeaten in Europe now. In the group stage we played some games well but there were others in which you couldn't see the same team – we didn't look like a compact outfit. We're happy with the responsibility of having to win every game but it's not easy to perform at a high level in every single match because anything can happen. The fans in Rome can really fire you up but you just need one thing to go wrong and people start thinking you've lost your way. Regardless of what happens, we go out there intent on winning every match.”

(Photo LaPresse)