Ahead of his first taste of the Derby della Capitale as Roma head coach, Paulo Fonseca sat down with the media to preview the game.
The match at the Stadio Olimpico - nominally a Lazio home game - gets underway at 18:00 local time.
Read what the boss had to say about the match.
You’ve experienced big games in Portugal and Ukraine. What does the derby mean for you?
“I’ve experienced different derby games in my career. I understand that it’s a special game for the fans. You get a sense of it when you’re in and around the city, because the fans stop you and make it very clear. There are three points at stake but there’s an added emotional edge. I hope it’s the first of many derbies for me – I’m very motivated and can’t wait for the game.”
Are you happy with Chris Smalling’s arrival?
“As has previously been said here – we were looking for a specialist centre back. Chris has made more than 200 appearances for Manchester United – he’s got the qualities that fit with our team. He’s a quick and aggressive player, who can add quality.”
Could Davide Zappacosta and Gianluca Mancini start the game tomorrow? Will Smalling be in the squad?
“Mancini and Zappacosta are ready – they may play but I don’t want to reveal that before tomorrow. You’ll find out then. Smalling will be in the squad.”
Could Alessandro Florenzi play on the left wing?
“It’s something we’re looking at – we worked on it in training during the week and we’ll see tomorrow whether we’ll opt for that solution.”
Last week you asked Cengiz Under and Justin Kluivert to play on Genoa’s central defenders. However Lazio often build through their wing backs. Will you ask the wingers to do something different?
“That is a tactical matter – it’s a fair and intelligent question but I don’t want to reveal how we plan to play tomorrow. We’ve reflected on the game against Genoa and on what we’ll do against Lazio. We’ve got a strategy for every situation and you’ll see the approach we adopt tomorrow.”
Smalling said he was struck by the conversation he had with you. What did you say to each other?
“When we have these talks, we try to explain our way of playing, how we’re thinking of using the player in the team, and how important we believe them to be. It’s about convincing the player, explaining the rationale behind our decisions and why we’ve put faith in them.”
Is Jordan Veretout fit?
“He can start the game – he’s fit. The same goes for Mancini and the others, Leonardo Spinazzola and Diego Perotti aside.”
Lazio are viewed as favourites for this one. What do you think of the bookmakers’ judgement?
“It is what it is – they’re just words ultimately. All that matters is what happens on the pitch. I’ve no doubts that Lazio are a very strong side, with excellent players and a coach that has been there for a while and has a tested system. The question of who’s the favourite doesn’t matter – I think what counts is the match itself and how we approach the game, surprise the opposition and counteract their strengths. I understand why the press bring up these things but it’s not important.”
Do you see Veretout playing more with Bryan Cristante or Lorenzo Pellegrini?
“All our midfielders can play alongside their team-mates in that department. Veretout can play with Amadou Diawara, Pellegrini or Cristante. The same goes for the others – they’re all interchangeable.”
Patrik Schick is the subject of meetings about transfers. How do you see him? Will he be in the squad tomorrow?
“As I’ve said – he’s here with us and will be in the squad tomorrow. He’s ready to play – I don’t want to talk about hypothetical situations.”
You have an idea of how you want your team to play. Do you believe your team should play in the same way for 90 minutes or that they should adapt to the situations that arise against the opposition?
“Absolutely – I’m not a dogmatic coach and I’ve showed that in the past. I believe strongly in our identity as a team, which can overcome the opposition. However the aim is always to win matches. I don’t have a closed view of the game – depending on the result, if I needed to take off an attacker and bring on a defender to get a result, I’d do it. The circumstances that arise during matches are what determine your decisions – based on the score-line, you try to make the most suitable decision you can.”
Juan Jesus apologised on social media but then had to close his accounts after criticism. What do you think of what happened and of social media in general?
“Juan is fine – it couldn’t be any other way. He has to be okay. Everybody makes mistakes in football. It’s a sport for strong people, who can react to adversity. There’s no room for people who lack the strength to bounce back. Footballers have to react. For me, individual errors don’t exist – they are always team errors and ultimately, I am responsible, as the coach. The players are perfectly aware of that.
"On the outside, the buck stops with me – you’ll never hear me pointing the finger at individuals in public. Internally we’ll do our own analysis and talk to the players. There are no individual errors but team ones. That’s what happened against Genoa – they were collective mistakes.
“As for social media, the club has set its rules – anything going on in and around the club or the team cannot go on social media. In people’s personal life, they can do whatever they feel is right – we live in a democracy.”
Where is Justin Kluivert on his development path? What do you think he’s lacking to become a firm starter in your eyes?
“This is a player we’ve got big hopes for – he’s young and needs to develop, and I believe he will do. We all fully believe in him and we’re sure his performances will improve through the season. He turned in a good display against Genoa. I saw an improvement in how he goes about his job on the pitch and I’m sure we’ll see him make steps forward.”
Have you looked at a way of stopping Luis Alberto?
“We all know his qualities – he has a great influence on his team. But we don't care about individuals – it's not part of our identity or our way of defending. We know that players can be decisive in certain moments and we’ll try to nullify him collectively, not with man-to-man marking.
“One last thing to conclude, since we weren’t able to mention it. I’d like to say a word about a coach who had a spell here, Luis Enrique, who deserves our admiration and is going through an incredibly difficult time. I’d like to send my condolences, as well as those of the club and everyone who works here.”