The England international returns to Old Trafford to face his old club Manchester United in the semi-final of the Europa League - a combination of factors that he acknowledges is hard to match.
Here's what Smalling had to say during his pre-match press conference on Wednesday.
Thursday's game gets underway at 21:00 CEST.
Welcome back, Chris. Is it a strange thing or a welcome thing that there will be no fans at Old Trafford? Because I imagine that will remove a lot of the emotion from it…
“Yeah, I think I’d admit that’s one disappointment not to have a full house, for a game between two clubs that have been a big part of my career. So that’s one unfortunate thing, but it doesn’t take away the emotion side because it’s very rare that you go onto the pitch and you know every player on the pitch – and especially in such a big game too.
"I think and hope it’s got all the ingredients to put in one of your best performances.”
How are feeling – you’ve been out for a while and you had that horrible off-field incident, how are you feeling overall? And also, how important is this game for Roma?
“Personally I’m feeling good. It’s no secret that I’ve missed a lot of games this season, which is very unusual for me, but coming into this game I’m feeling fit and feeling ready to contribute.
“I think with the fans outside Trigoria, I think there are very few clubs around the world that have a fanbase that can do things like that, so we know the importance of tomorrow and bringing back a positive result to Rome so we can give our fans something to be proud of and look forward to the second leg. Because of course this tie is over 180 minutes.”
What about Ole Gunnar Solskjaer? You didn’t play too much under him, but what do you make of the job he’s done?
"Yeah, I think this season they are obviously having a very good season. I think when he first got here I was injured, but after I got back fit he played me and we had a good relationship. Obviously we had some very honest conversations in the summer, but now we’ll be facing each other on the pitch and I am really looking forward to it.”
There has got to be an extra motivation for you in this one, hasn’t there?
“Yes, 100%. I think it’s a big game, a special game and a semi-final. And added on top playing against Manchester United. Having been in Rome for the past two years I know the importance of bringing home a trophy, because it has been too long.
"So there are so many ingredients to this that I don’t think there will be many bigger games to play in. I am happy to be fit and able to contribute because the squad needs to have every player available.”
The team seems to have suffered a bit without you. Are you ready to play 90 minutes tomorrow and be at your best?
"Yeah, I think I would have liked to have had an injury-free season like I had before. But coming into this game I’ve had some good training, and obviously I came back in the previous game too. I am ready to play 90 minutes if the manager decides.
"It’s just a game that I am really looking forward to and I cannot wait to get on the pitch and get going. There has obviously been a lot of build-up to this one, because of the occasion and it being a semi-final, but I am just keen to get my boots on and help push this club forward.”
© 2018-2023 Soccer S.r.l. – EU VAT IT09305501000 - all rights reserved. The AS Roma names, logos and artwork are registered or unregistered trademarks of Soccer S.r.l. All other trademarks may be the property of their respective holders.