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Need to Know: Di Francesco's pre-Liverpool comments

Read everything coach Eusebio Di Francesco had to say ahead of Wednesday's Champions League semi-final second leg against Liverpool.

Roma need to overturn a three-goal first leg deficit at the Stadio Olimpico if they are to reach the final for just the second time in their history.

How will this game compare to that against Barcelona, when you came back?

“We’ll be up against a completely different side, from a tactical standpoint and in terms of mentality. They are less of a possession side but more capable of playing direct. So it’ll be hugely different. However, in terms of motivating the players, it’s exactly the same. We want to pull this comeback off, to give everything we have and achieve something special.”

Have you decided on your line-up for the match?

“Nothing is to be taken for granted – I’ll weigh things up today as regards the line-up. Unfortunately, some players will definitely be missing, so I have fewer options to choose from. It’ll be key to get our approach spot on, both defensively and offensively.

"We need to score three but we’ll need to ensure we show both sides of our game: we’ll need to build on a solid defensive base, where focus and application will be crucial, so we don’t allow our opponents too much space in behind. However, if you want to score you cannot just sit in your own area. There is a risk of our opponents countering and we need to take that into consideration. It’s hard to see [Kevin] Strootman being involved in the match – we’ll see how he is today.”

Did you see Manchester City’s second leg display against Liverpool?

“City started the game very well and came close to scoring a second on numerous occasions. Liverpool are a very dangerous team and if you give them an inch, they’ll punish you. We’re going to play a Champions League semi-final in front of 70,000 people, are you expecting a team that will just surrender? No. We’ll be up for the fight – the team will give all they have. The game could end with any result – what I care about is seeing the eagerness and desire to overcome this challenge. That is what we need to do tomorrow.”

Do you think the absence of Jurgen Klopp’s assistant coach will have an impact on their game?

“Those are internal matters that have nothing to do with me – I can’t prepare my side thinking about the fact that Klopp’s second in command won’t be there. We’ll be up against a strong and determined team, with history in Europe. I don’t think the fact one of the coaching staff is missing will make a difference.”

How do you stop Liverpool?

“We need a carbon copy of the physical and mental display we put in against Barcelona. Against Liverpool, we’ll need technical quality, physicality, the right attitude and to score as soon as we can, so our supporters can give us that extra push.”

What do you think about the clashes involving the Roma ultras in the away leg?

“Every set of supporters has some bad apples, who do things that they shouldn’t. As I’ve said, I stand shoulder to shoulder with Sean Cox and his family and I’m against all forms of violence. I can assure you that at Roma, there are true, passionate and non-violent fans. All over the world, unfortunately, there are those who ruin great evenings like the first leg. I hope it’s an enjoyable occasion for those coming to the stadium tomorrow, that’s what I’m pleading for.”

How do you rate your run in the Champions League?

“What we’ve done up until now is great, but I’m not someone who simply settles. Our ambition must be to do our best and get to Kiev – that must be our aim and something that drives us on. I’ll try and treat the game like any other as I prepare it. What a coach transmits to his players is fundamental and must get into the players’ minds. I’ve managed to and I’m glad, but we’re not quite there yet. From today I’ll try and motivate the players even more, so they realise that we’re capable of doing something special once again.”

Will there be any surprises in your defensive set up?

“[Mohamed] Salah was a decisive influence in the first leg, but we cannot focus our entire game plan on him. There are certain movements that we need to work on. We need focus and application to address Salah’s ability to get in behind and do better at reading certain situations. We can’t simply put three men on him, however. We need to do something special to close that three-goal gap.”

Will the defeat lead you to tweak your tactics, perhaps at the cost of distorting your playing style?

“Defeats are part and parcel of this process – we’re in the semi-final of the Champions League and, for someone who’s done that for the first time, it’s a lovely milestone. However, my idea of football isn’t about to change. In the first leg, we lacked that constant focus during the game. The players prepared for the match well, but in the game you can start chasing the ball and abandon what you’d prepared. After the first 25 minutes and during the middle period of the game, we were at the mercy of Liverpool. We should learn a lesson from that and hope to make up for that blackout we had in Liverpool.”

Perhaps in the away leg you lacked a bit of quality, up against Klopp’s tactical approach?

“If you play to score goals, you need to get your reading of dangerous situations right. If you keep losing the ball, you’re going to struggle. You need to make as few mistakes as possible. We need to capitalise on their errors as best we can and make fewer of them ourselves. We need to maintain our philosophy, without losing our incisiveness.”

Will playing at the Olimpico have an impact tomorrow?

“In our home games during our Champions League run, we’ve given up very little to our opponents. The match we struggled the most in was against Atletico Madrid. We gave up very little and were clinical when we needed to hurt teams. That’s what we hope to do tomorrow. Repeating that will not be easy but we need to believe in ourselves, with all the passion that we have inside us. That desire to perform another miracle needs to push us all to do something extra, and we perhaps lacked that in the first leg.”

Have you used the 1984 final to give the players extra motivation?

“Too much time has passed since that final. That’s something that is more in the minds of Giallorossi supporters. Having been here years ago, I know what it means to a certain generation. But it was another era, another period of football. It was completely different. These boys cannot just think about 1984, they must have other things motivating them: a Champions League semi-final. We need to create that real sense of belonging here, for all those that work at the club.”

How does Edin Dzeko go into the game tomorrow?

“The players will be the deciding factor and that’s even more true of him. He’s one of our talismans and I hope that, as Salah was the star of the first leg, this time Dzeko can stamp his mark on a return-leg comeback. A player with his quality and ability should take responsibility and I hope Radja [Nainggolan] does the same.”

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