Serie A TIM


Here's what coach Luciano Spalletti had to say as he addressed the media in the Champions League last 16 Matchday-1 press conference ahead of Roma v Real Madrid on Wednesday.

Is Daniele De Rossi fit?
"Daniele trained well yesterday and I hope he does likewise in today's session. If that's the case, he'll be in my squad."

You're famous for having played with a false nine, including when Roma knocked out Real Madrid. Will you opt for that approach again tomorrow?
"As a coach you have several tactical options available and obviously you have to keep in mind your players' attributes, pick the best ones and make sure they form a strong side. I have two options. I can go with a more mobile front line or opt for greater physicality. I'll have a think about that between now and the game and we'll assess what the best option is tomorrow."

Is there a favourite for this tie and can you see any parallels with the 2008 meeting when Roma knocked out Real Madrid despite the latter being favourites?
"I don't think either side will begin as favourites, they both have a 50% chance of going through. There are differences because that Roma side had a consolidated playing style that the players were familiar with. They had a proven system which had produced results. We're currently working on ours and we've adopted an approach which will get the best out of our squad. Clearly we need to show consistency and this is the ideal game to see whether we're on the right track or not. I have a lot of faith in my players because I've seen they're very switched on of late and really on the up."

Do you think it's important for Edin Dzeko to play to continue his development?
"All the players in my squad are important. You need everyone to contribute in a game like this. Real Madrid are a team and have been for some time. The side has changed very little in terms of personnel since they won the Champions League under [Carlo] Ancelotti and my players will need to give it everything. The only difficulty for a coach comes in picking the right team. You need to choose the best XI to maximise the 50% chance we have of winning the match."

Cristiano Ronaldo has come in for criticism in Spain recently. What do you make of that?
"I can only imagine what those in Spain would have made of our form in recent times! Ronaldo is one of the best players in the world because of what he produces on the football pitch. When you talk about genuine world-class players, besides their ability you also consider how consistent they are. He can always give you the edge, he's a modern footballer, he's strong, quick and scores goals. I won't, however, try and shackle him as I've read in the press over the last few days. I won't tell three of my players that they have to mark Cristiano Ronaldo. I won't be telling them they're worth a third of Cristiano Ronaldo, else I'd need 33 players to compete with a squad of that standard. I have to tell the guy who plays in the same area of the park that he has the chance to stand toe to toe with Cristiano Ronaldo."

What are the differences between the current Real Madrid side and the one you faced eight years ago?
"The current Real side are better on the counter than the team back then. They were a side that smothered you with their football and pummelled you in their half of the field, keeping the ball more. They would grind you down more than they do now. The current crop are more clinical at certain times and can break at impressive speed. That's the feature of their play that has impressed me most. What some people view as an issue, the fact you don't see them press a lot and that they spend much of the match in their own half is, in actual fact, a strength. Those stationed in midfield are the ones who launch and finish counter attacks."

Could [Alessandro] Florenzi be the right man to keep Ronaldo quiet?
"He could play there, as could others. The fact that I've moved him around a bit shows that there are other players who can do what we ask in that position. Clearly, when you face Ronaldo, the player you pick against him has to be quick, among other things. Florenzi can do everything but he's different to other versatile players who often have the odd weakness. Ale can play everywhere and we'll see in which area he can offer the most. I believe there won't be much difference between one position or another, especially if we maintain the approach of pushing forward, scoring goals and trying to win matches."

A big crowd is expected at the Stadio Olimpico tomorrow. Are you in some way responsible for the fans' return?
It's always the team that deserve the credit. The lads have done what's been asked of them recently. The players' intentions have shone through and I believe that the crowd have realised we're here to do things properly. We definitely haven't been playing spectacular football but we've given every last drop of energy and we've come on a lot with that attitude. We need our fans. There's nothing worse than playing in a ground like the Stadio Olimpico without supporters, especially the one we'd become used to with the Curva Sud. The lads will play better than they have in a number of other fixtures because our supporters will give us a big lift."

How's Francesco Totti? Could we see him in action?
"Francesco had a problem before the trip to Carpi, as an old injury flared up. Since then he's always trained with the squad. If he does so again today he'll be available for selection. Clearly, if he's in the squad, he could be involved, I see no reason why not. It all depends on the match and his fitness. Plus we need to consider a series of factors which will contribute to helping the team win the game. I've heard talk of experience too. If I went purely on experience, we'd win the match. I'm thinking of [Morgan] De Sanctis, Maicon and [Seydou] Keita. We need to win the match and we'll require strength, hard running and a willingness to work hard. Those who can display these traits are the players I'm most fond of. They're not all the same to me. I'm more amenable to players who show all those qualities. The only thing I try to coach is an attempt to win football matches for Roma."

This team have been beaten by rampant sides like Bayern Munich last season and Barcelona this year...
I've also suffered some heavy defeats in the past but alongside that there are also some equally significant victories and if you list them all, you'll see there are lots of them. It depends on what you implement in your everyday work. The team should only have one approach. We've spoken about a new style for Roma because we no longer want to hear people claiming that we don't know how to work. We work hard and well here because it's the perfect environment, especially for football. We could dub it the "Roma way' as we have foreign owners. We must keep this approach and take the initiative in matches, putting in everything we've got. It's crucial that we produce that. I really believe that the team has potential but I wasn't pleased with the Torino game. While some people praised us, I'd respond by saying we didn't try to win the match. I'm not happy when my team don't try to do something. If you aren't positive, it becomes that much harder and you have to accept what you produce and have the courage to work up a sweat. We don't regret our bad results, only when we haven't been true to ourselves and we haven't tried to show our character and what Roma means to us."

(Photo LaPresse)