UEFA Europa League


Coach Paulo Fonseca faced the media on Wednesday afternoon, ahead of Roma's Europa League last-16 meeting with Shakhtar Donetsk.

For the second round in succession Fonseca is going up against one of his former sides - the Portuguese having coached the Ukrainian side for three seasons prior to his arrival in Rome in the summer of 2019.

Thursday's first leg at the Stadio Olimpico gets underway at 21:00 CET.

Here's what he had to say...

What are you expecting to be the most difficult elements of this game?

“I know it will be a tough match. Shakhtar are a really, really good side. We can’t forget that this season they have already beaten Real Madrid twice, and they also drew twice with Inter Milan. They always do well at European level, and their players really get up for games like this.

“It’s true that I know them well, but they are a really strong side – incredibly dangerous on the counter-attack. In my view they might be the best side in Europe on the counter-attack. We need to make sure we produce a really focused performance, because it will be a tough game.”

Could Edin Dzeko be in the squad tomorrow? And how much do you think Shakhtar have changed since you left?

“Dzeko trained with us today, he’ll be in the squad.

“Shakhtar have a new coach now, with his own ideas, and he’s changed the formation. I played with a 4-2-3-1, now they use a 4-1-4-1. Obviously with that there are different ideas and elements too. He’s a really good coach. It’s true that the players are largely the same as when I coached there, but a different coach has different ideas.”

Will Gonzalo Villar player tomorrow? Is he capable of playing in a midfield pair with Lorenzo Pellegrini?

“You will have to wait until tomorrow to see who will play, but that is one option. Villar could play with Pellegrini, with Amadou Diawara – or Diawara could play with Pellegrini. Those three are all possibilities.”

Marash Kumbulla, Gianluca Mancini and Chris Smalling are a settled defence. Will you play with those three tomorrow, or could Bryan Cristante start again?

“It could be that we play with those three – or that we play with Cristante.”

How have Roma improved in the last few games - what is it that has meant they have conceded fewer goals?

“We have improved. And I’m not just talking about the defence, but across the board. We have understood that it is really important not to concede goals. The organisation of the side has always been good, but we have improved in our decision-making and how we use the ball during the attacking phase.”

What are the major differences between Paulo Fonseca’s Shakhtar and Luis Castro’s Shakhtar?

“As I said, Castro has his own coaching principles. He has changed the formation, so that’s the main difference. Changing the formation naturally changes the intentions of the side in different moments. But he’s doing a good job.”

Will your history with Shakhtar help you in some of your tactical decisions tomorrow?

“We have thought about our strategy to face Shakhtar. It’s true that I know them well, but they know me well too. It’s true that I know their players well, but they know my ideas well too. We have prepared a strategy based on how Shakhtar play now, not on how they played when I was there.”

Last round you faced Braga, now you face Shakhtar. You faced Roma when you were at Shakhtar – what is that like?

“I would not have chosen it, that’s for sure. I don’t like to face my old teams. If I could have chosen it, I would not have faced Shakhtar this round, and I wouldn’t have faced Braga in the last round either.

"I’m also really sad we won’t be able to play in front of our fans tomorrow. I always like playing in front of fans, both at home and away. If fans are there at the game in Ukraine, then in my opinion that can only be a good thing.”

How is Roger Ibanez? Will he be in the squad tomorrow?

“Yes, he’s trained with the group during the last two sessions – so he’ll be in the squad.”

(Photo Getty Images)