AS Roma’s head coach Eusebio Di Francesco on Monday called on his players to stay motivated ahead of the UEFA Champions League (UCL) round-of-16 first leg match against Portugal’s FC Porto.
The coach of the Serie A side, along with team captain Daniele De Rossi, attended a press conference in the Italian capital at which he reminded his squad of Roma’s historical achievement last season when they reached the semifinals, reports Efe news.
“There is still a long way to go, but what I can say is that tomorrow we have a great opportunity to produce a good performance and bring back some enthusiasm,” Di Francesco said.
“Every chance is important and that is especially true in the Champions League,” he said. “There are only two Italian teams left in the competition, which we are proud about.” “We need to be ambitious,” he added.
Di Francesco said it is important not to concede goals at home, especially in the knockout phase, as the team had done last season until the quarterfinals against Barcelona, when Roma conceded a 1-4 defeat at the Camp Nou, then won 3-0 at Olimpico.
“It is vital that you are solid,” the coach said. “A good defence is fundamental if you are going to build a good attack. It is important that we keep a clean sheet tomorrow, but that does not mean we can lose our identity as a team. We need to defend well, as a team.”
Roma is scheduled to host Porto on Tuesday in the last-16 first leg, while the second match is set to be held at the Dragon Stadium in Portugal on March 6.
“Porto is a good side. They are compact and hard to play against,” Di Francesco said. “They have won more defensive duels than anyone else, which shows they know exactly how to play as a team. It will be a demanding match from the physical standpoint.”
The Italian coach downplayed that some players of the Portuguese team would be sidelined, saying Porto has “excellent replacements.”
For his part, De Rossi said last season’s experience in the elite continental competition, when Roma was knocked out of the semis at the hands of Liverpool, would be a great help for the team when it came to improving performance and making this season more successful.
“Definitely, it (the experience) makes us more prepared for these delicate games,” the Italian international said. “Porto is used to playing these matches, but experience gives us more confidence than we have had in the past.”
The 35-year-old De Rossi, who has recovered from a knee injury that kept him out of soccer activities for roughly three months, said he is to continue playing as long as he feels fit, thanking his coach and teammates for supporting him during that time.
“If I feel good and am playing enough, I think I can continue playing,” he said.
“My team-mates and the coach do not realise how important they have been for me over the past three years; they have made me feel more important than I ever have in my career. I want to thank them for that,” De Rossi said.
He also expressed trust in his coach’s philosophy: “The coach has his football ethos and that does not change whether things are going badly or well.”
Roma is sixth in the Serie A standings with 38 points, just behind Atalanta on goal differential. The club was handed a heavy 1-7 defeat by Fiorentina in the Coppa Italia quarterfinals on January 30.