UEFA Champions League


Read what coach Eusebio Di Francesco had to say ahead of Tuesday's Champions League semi-final against Liverpool. The Giallorossi face Jurgen Klopp's side at Anfield in the first leg on Tuesday night, with kick-off scheduled for 19:45 BST (20:45 CEST). Di Francesco sat down in front of the media after taking a brief tour of the stadium.

What’s the first thing that struck you about this place?
“The beauty of English stadiums and the atmosphere that’s awaiting us. In Italy we don’t have the fans right on top of the pitch.”

Jurgen Klopp said that it’s no accident you’ve made it this far. What do Roma have to do in tomorrow’s game?
“A number of things. Our fans will make themselves heard as well. Our strength is as a group, and as [Aleksandar] Kolarov said, tomorrow we have to be even more of a team. Liverpool will play with more intensity than Barcelona and we need to match them.”

Is the plan to keep them running after the ball like against SPAL?
“We’re up against different opposition, who don’t wait around and are very aggressive. They’ve got the ability to play the ball forwards quickly, so drawn-out spells in possession could favour them. We’re here to exploit their weaknesses and avoid falling into traps. It will be a different game to the one in Ferrara, but that wasn’t the first time we’ve played high up the pitch. We’ve been working on these tactics for a long time. I want to see the same mental strength tomorrow.”

Could the three-man defence be key? Who will play between Cengiz Under and Patrik Schick?
“I won’t say anything about the line-up, but it’s between those two for a starting spot. I have to decide the best option, but we could go with four or three at the back. I can’t give any big clues, neither to you nor the opposition. Our philosophy mustn’t change, however. Our ability to stay tight in both phases of play will be what makes the difference."

Are you aware that whoever makes it to the final between you and Klopp will be a breath of fresh air in football?
“What Klopp said about us having a beard and glasses in common was nice. I’m pleased to come up against a coach of his mentality, he’s facing someone who is close to his idea of football. But I have much to prove compared to him, since he has already had success. Our ambition is to make it to the final, it will be a great encounter.”

A lot has been spoken about Liverpool’s attack. Is Alisson ready?
“We can’t rely on one player. As Aleksandar has mentioned already, Liverpool are more than just [Mohamed] Salah. Alisson is ready, just like the other 22 squad members in this game.”

Will you set out to play defensively?
“Do you want us to drop deep? It’s up to them to make us drop; we will defend well as a unit. Whether we can remain tight will make the difference, the ball will do all the work.”

Kevin Strootman mentioned a special tactic to stop Salah. Would you have liked to coach him?
“Leaving aside the fact that Kevin has become more of a Neapolitan than a Dutchman, I’ll reiterate that we’ve prepared to face Liverpool and not Salah. He used to be at Roma but he wanted to move to the Premier League. I’m happy to have young prospects like Cengiz. I don’t think about it and it’s never crossed my mind: I prefer to look ahead rather than behind. We’re not focusing on one guy in our preparations for this contest; we’ll have to be particularly careful about their best players but we’re not underestimating the others.”

Would you like to coach in England?
“I’m a professional, but at the moment I care only about Roma. Coaching in England is not my priority. Right now, Klopp says he can only say ‘spaghetti’ in Italian; well, in English I can only say ‘hamburger’, so we’re the same in this regard.”

(Photo LaPresse)