With both sides up around the top of the league, the game in Bergamo (kick-off: 18:00 CET) promises to be another important Serie A meeting.
Here's what the boss had to say about the contest...
Roma have fewer days to recover for this game than other teams – will you have to make more changes because of that?
“It’s true that we don’t have a lot of time to recover, but I think I’ll only make two or three changes at most. I don’t want to make too many changes, the team is on a good run right now.”
In recent years, Roma have always seemed to suffer a bit in the physical battle with Atalanta. How are you intending to deal with that?
“This is a different game to those, against a different side – a very strong side. We don’t have a lot of time to really think about it. We’ll see tomorrow. Gonzalo Villar could start, Bryan Cristante could start but so could other players; I will make my choices based on the tactical approach and the characteristics of the game.”
Are Roma also in the hunt for the Scudetto this season?
“We are still in December, so many sides are close together and so many can still finish in the top four. As I’ve always said, our target is to do better than we did last season – and that means finishing in the top four. But I repeat, we are in December, it’s too early to talk about anything else.”
Did you prefer it at the start of the season, when no-one gave Roma much of a chance, or now – when so many are starting to consider you among the title contenders?
“I always try to stay balanced and I want the team to be like that too. When we win we are not the best in the world and when we lose we are not the worst either. We always need to keep that balance.”
Pedro started the season so brilliantly, but in recent weeks has seemed a little flat: will he start in Bergamo?
“Pedro is still a really important player for our team. We’ll see tomorrow, but he could be an option to start the game.”
Edin Dzeko has scored four goals in nine games so far. Would you expect more from him?
“Dzeko is doing well, he does a really important job for the team. He has already scored four goals but he’s played a role in the creation of a number of others. That’s what matters to me.”
Will Antonio Mirante start tomorrow, or is Pau Lopez the No. 1 now?
“I’ve already made my decision, but you will have to wait and see tomorrow.”
What has changed at Roma compared to last season?
“We’ve been together for a year and a half now, so it’s normal that the team is a bit stronger now. Players have come in that have changed and improved the group. That’s normal, that’s what happens when you have more time together and everyone has a better idea of the way we want to play.”
You are going up against a side that marks man-to-man across the pitch. Will you ask your central defenders to press their opponents as soon as Atalanta get the ball?
“As I’ve said, this is a different game against a side that has a different style of play. But we won’t change our intentions or our identity. What changes in each game is the tactical strategy, which we amend based on the qualities of the opposition.”
What sort of a test will this one be – how important will it be to judge the true potential of this group?
“It’s always tough to face Atalanta, they are a top side. But for us it’s just another game that we want to go and win. That doesn’t change. What changes are the characteristics of the game, but our overall ambition is always the same: to win.”
In terms of fitness, do you think Roma have improved from last season – or have Atalanta levelled off slightly?
“No, Atalanta are still really strong. Yes, it will be a really physical game, but we are strong and up for that battle too.”