Luciano Spalletti broke the habit of a lifetime on the eve of Roma’s trip to Porto, revealing that Kevin Strootman will play in the game at the Estadio do Dragao. “Strootman will start,” began the Giallorossi coach, before giving his take on Roma’s goalkeeping situation: “I don’t see why we can’t pick the keeper one game at a time like with other positions. I don’t have an answer. It’s simple, the guy on form plays.”
A busy summer transfer window continued earlier with confirmation of the signing of Bruno Peres: “He’s a player we were chasing," Spalletti added. "First of all because he’s a good footballer. Roma want to be a top side and for that we need a strong team with equally good options on the bench. Bruno Peres is quality. He’s a great player and will join up with other excellent footballers. He has very specific attributes, he gets up and down the flank and because of the injuries we’ve sustained, we were lacking someone who can do that – someone who gives us the option of playing down both sides. His attributes gives us an added dimension.”
How have Roma changed compared to the side you took over in January?
“Some good players left and they have been replaced by equally accomplished ones. Above all guys who had a lot of experience at big clubs. I believe this has brought a touch more professionalism to the dressing room, along with experience. When you have all of those attributes, character comes as a result. We’re a strong side in every area of the pitch and we’re ready for this big match.”
Will Edin Dzeko have a job to do defensively too?
“I expect that from every player who I pick to start. I want my players to be completely involved in the match. Often when we think about team selection we tend to focus on a piece of skill or a goal but if you consider that the ball is in play for on average 55 minutes and there are 22 players on the park, everyone touches the ball for around 90 seconds. Yet they still have to do something for the rest of the time. Being good on the ball is not enough. That’s why I expect him to defend if he starts, that he performs well and puts in the effort to help out his team-mates.”
Are you considering adding Bruno Peres to your UEFA squad list for this tie?
“We’d like to include him in our squad for the second leg, although in terms of the paperwork we could technically pick him for tomorrow. We won’t bring him with us this time but he’ll be involved next week.”
Will the Brazilian allow you to consistently pick a three-man defence?
“No, we won’t always play with three at the back. Peres can operate as both a genuine full-back and a wing-back. He’s a good player with ability and still has to improve but we’ll try to use both formations. We were lacking someone who could play this position and give us a Plan B. We have four massive matches in the space of 11 days and tomorrow’s game is hugely important for the club, me and the players, above all for their careers. Then, however, there’s another equally important fixture [Roma v Cagliari]. It’s not easy to recover, we need 20 good players and he gives us a different option. We’ll have to see how they all work together. Everyone has to work hard in training, even if they’ve been left out. That makes the difference in the long run. Everyone must give 100% and get involved.”