Luciano Spalletti faced the media on Wednesday afternoon to preview the Europa League game against Astra Giurgiu.
What should Roma be wary of tomorrow? Have you done your homework on Astra?
“I've looked at our opponents together with my assistants and [Bogdan] Lobont, who knows them pretty well. We brought him in and had a good long look at them. They've won their last two games and no matter where you play football that always sparks enthusiasm. They're in good mental and physical shape after a 1-0 home win and a 2-0 away win. [Marius] Sumudica has followed a rather unusual career path and he's gone through lots of teams. He's used to getting his side organised and good at mixing things up. He's played both with three and four at the back. Astra won the league last year and they have players with international pedigree. [Denis] Alibec is a very interesting centre forward and I think Steaua have bought him. He's naturally left-footed, very strong, he likes to have the ball played to feet and has the ability to pick a pass and send his team-mates through on goal. Astra have good players at the back too, like Fabricio, who can start moves and play the ball. I think they'll come here and play a waiting game, take a cautious approach and look to capitalise on any chances they get. That will make them even more dangerous. They'll batten down the hatches and leave no space for us, then knock the ball forward quickly as soon as they win possession.”
How's the team looking in the wake of your defeat to Torino? How have they been training?
“Obviously the players are disappointed with the way they played. When I say that everything is magnified in Rome I mean that a game like that weighs on your shoulders and your mind here more than elsewhere. So you need to analyse things carefully without stoking up fear. Our fans won't be happy with the way we're playing at the moment or our results. But when we analyse the match I don't want to place any extra burden on the players' shoulders; you just want everyone to get involved and discuss things. We've gone over the key points looking at how we played and we've spent a lot of time together. It's better to lighten their workload in the 48 hours leading up to the game because otherwise you only increase the risk of injury. After our Europa League match we'll go over some other key concepts, but the lads understand the situation. They're professionals and they're Roma players. We need to be committed, focused and look to improve off the pitch. They want to put things right as soon as possible.”
Are you still feeling the after-effects of your Champions League exit?
“It's not something that's easy to shake off but going back over it again would mean taking a step backwards. I prefer to look forward because that's where I'll be spending the rest of my life. My chances of staying at Roma depend on our future results and that's the direction we're heading in. I chose these players and I believe in them, as I've said lots of times already, and it will stay that way for as long as I'm at this club. This is my team and it will be my team until the end. They're quality players and they've shown me their technical ability and their mental ability. Of course some of them are a bit younger and you try to improve them, but they're a great team in every sense. And they will remain a great team as long as I'm at Roma.”
After the Torino game, Leandro Castan criticised your management. Why do you think so many people feel they have the right to criticise Roma?
“There's always going to be a reaction when you play for Roma and go to play for another club that on paper is weaker. We need to use the players we believe to be the best – that's the way forward. You need to be a bit careful when you talk but it depends who he wants to criticise. I know what I have to do: I'm trying to make Roma stronger and better because that's the only route for us if we want to win, although you sometimes get situations in the transfer market where money comes into it. Sometimes you lose something somewhere in order to gain something somewhere else, but the ultimate aim is always to keep improving. I don't need lots of assistants or other people getting involved in my job. I need to surround myself with capable people who I get on with, understand and can talk to, and that's what I have at this club. I don't want lots of people interfering in my job, just as I don't interfere with the club, but we're all working with the same objective in mind, which is to improve Roma and get the results Roma deserve – for our fans, especially.”
Will you rotate and bring in Alisson, Juan Manuel Iturbe and Gerson like you did against Plzen?
“We'll change a few things around because we have another match right afterwards but that doesn't necessarily mean that these players are worse than the others. They're all Roma players; they're all part of our squad. I want to win the game tomorrow so the changes will be made with the aim of getting the win. Otherwise I wouldn't rotate. Alisson is a good goalie and I'll play him. There will be other players too that I'd like to play, like [Leandro] Paredes, who I've used less in recent matches. So there will be rotation, yes, but the understudies to 11 wolves are another 11 wolves.”