UEFA Europa League


Paulo Fonseca hosted his customary pre-match press conference at Trigoria on Wednesday afternoon.

Roma hold a 2-1 first leg advantage going into Thursday's Europa League quarter-final return meeting with Ajax (kick-off: 21:00 CEST), as both sides look to book a place in the semi-finals of the competition.

Here's what the boss had to say going into the game...

You are on the verge of a big achievement – what sort of attitude do you need to see from the team tomorrow?

“All of us know that this might be the most important game of the season so far. We are facing a really, really good side. It’s important that we don’t think about the first game in Amsterdam.

"I want to see a side that is ready to fight, with the attitude that we have seen in some of the most recent games. A side that wants to win the match, against a great side like Ajax who are going out there with the exact same target. But I am sure that the boys know just how important this moment is.”

Ajax have a formidable reputation for European away games. What do you make of that?

“That’s why I’ve always said the tie isn’t over. I know how good Ajax are, I know they will be coming here to win. So it’s important that we understand that this tie is not over. We have to be focused. We will need the perfect performance to get through to the next round.”

Could Riccardo Calafiori start the game tomorrow?

“Yes, Calafiori will start tomorrow. He came on in Amsterdam and did well and he will start tomorrow night.”

Have you had time to focus on a few defensive issues in the last few days?

“Yes, in games like these all the little details are important. We have analysed the game, as we always do. We’ve worked on lots of things. It is important that the team stay focused defensively because they are very good going forward.”

Have you tried to work on ways to prevent the squad having the occasional dips in concentration that have afflicted them in certain games?

“I hope that they understand that these are the sort of games you can’t make mistakes in. We have to be focused, we have to make sure emotionally we stay balanced. In Amsterdam they opened the scoring but we kept a level head and got back into it. We’ll need that same balance tomorrow.”

What have you made of Rick Karsdorp this season?

“He’s having a great campaign. He’s learned a lot, he’s confident. He can still get even better, I think, not least because he’s still young.”

Could Chris Smalling be back for the final month of the season?

“He’s just started some individual training again. He’s getting closer to being back, but he needs to be confident as well. Let’s see how he is feeling.”

Ajax don’t mark man-to-man, but they do press high. Are you a bit worried about that, especially after the game against Bologna?

“Ajax do like to do that – sometimes man-to-man too. We’ve definitely focused on that element. We are ready to combat their high pressure. I think that will be one of the keys to the game.”

How is the team looking from a mental perspective, in your opinion?

“Physically and mentally we are doing well. The team knows how important this game is, how important this period is. And then after that we have prepared for the game tactically like we always do. To make sure we don’t allow Ajax to do the things they want to do.”

(Photo Getty Images)