The game at the Stadio Olimpico gets underway at 21:00 CEST on Thursday.
Here's what the boss had to say ahead of the contest...
Can you explain the importance of the summer friendly against Tottenham in your mind, as it is a game you talked about in your last interview?
“I consider that one to have been an important game for us because Tottenham are certainly the best team we have played against this season. It may have been a friendly, but it was against a really good side. We faced a really dangerous team, without really having a lot of problems defensively. We defended like a team. You guys always want to focus on one player or another, putting responsibility on them, but for us we look at things a bit differently.
“For us, even with all the issues that come with playing against a really good side, we were in control of the situation for 90 minutes. The attitude was really, really strong. That’s why I think it was an important game. Because I haven’t seen that same attitude for a full 90 minutes in any of the other games we’ve played.”
What do you think about Helsinki? Is there something about them you are particularly focused on?
“The Helsinki coach has definitely caught my eye. If a side plays with the sort of organisation and identity that they do, it means that the coach is a good one. I like the team. Of course we have done our analysis of the game, the homework. I haven’t looked at anything else since the game against Empoli came to an end. They are a well-organised side, who are also good to watch in different ways with the way they like to build the play.
“The result [a defeat] against Real Betis was misleading; it could easily have gone very differently. For me it’s all confirmation of the quality of Scandinavian football these days. Teams are well-organised, the fitness and physicality is always there, and the quality on the ball has continued to improve. It won’t be an easy game by any means, whereas you guys think it might be.”
Is this the Nicolo Zaniolo that you were hoping for at the start of the season? Is he ready to play tomorrow?
“He will play tomorrow. He will play. But I will say it again, it wasn’t an easy injury for him. He wanted to be back as soon as possible. He worked really hard with the medical team and the other staff. He really wanted to be available again quickly. He was ready to put himself at risk when it probably wasn’t the best idea.
“In Empoli he was ready to play, then during the game I decided to change plans when it became 2-1. He’ll play tomorrow, though; I don’t know if he will have 90 minutes in his legs but I am sure he will do well. The mental side is the most important. He is really fired up, really confident, and was playing really well before the injury. And tomorrow he is back.”
Zaniolo’s return means Lorenzo Pellegrini will move back into central midfield. Do you think he loses something a bit playing deeper rather than in a more advanced role?
“Last year I talked about three Pellegrinis and how all three would be starters in my team. Why? Because he can play in three different positions. And he can do all of them well. Given his age, he can still get even better. He’s a great player and an influential one wherever he plays.
“Obviously if he was playing right-back, he might have a few issues. But it’s a shame we only have one of him, I would like to have three. We try to give him the role – or the roles – where he can feel most comfortable. He can’t do them all, but that’s normal.
“But I don’t want to focus on that too much. The team is the most important thing. He is the captain and he knows that the team is the most important thing. A player needs to do what needs to be done for the team. And him, in this side, has a crucial importance, regardless of the position he plays. He’s a really important player for us.”
Will you go with the three-man defence again tomorrow, or are you thinking of a Plan B?
“Tomorrow it’ll be Plan B. Two of our three centre-backs will play. And now I will leave it open as to what the Plan B might be…”
What sort of shape is Mady Camara in right now?
“He’s not quite in a place to play 90 minutes just yet. When he got here he had not played for a month, the last game he had been involved in was against Slavia Prague in the Champions League qualifiers. And then when he got here he had a few fitness issues.
“Now he’s getting better from a fitness perspective and, from a tactical side of things, he’s learning our way of playing and what the central midfielders should be doing. He’ll play tomorrow.”
How is Edoardo Bove’s development going? Could he be someone who follows Nicola Zalewski’s path? And who will play in goal tomorrow?
“Rui Patricio will play tomorrow. I don’t really like putting one player in for one competition and one for another. That is not the situation here. Svilar played in the last one [in Europe] and he will play again in future. He is a great young goalkeeper that can’t really go a long time without playing. He needs to play games every so often. That means he will play again, but it doesn’t mean that he will play all six group games. He played last week, and played well, but this time it will be Rui Patricio.
“Bove is improving. When we arrived he was part of the Primavera side, not the first-team. He’s a smart lad, very professional, and he takes things seriously and professionally. He’s improving. He’s taken every chance he has had. Whether that is as a starter or as a substitute; 20 minutes or just one. He’s improving. I think it’s a bit hard to say that he will do what Zalewski did but he is definitely improving.”
Will you continue to allow the players to decide who takes the penalties on a game-by-game basis?
“We always decide before the game. We decide who is the first choice, who is the second and who is the third. Then, obviously, the first choice might decide whether he feels confident in the moment or not. Or he can give a teammate the opportunity to take it.
“For us there is always a first-choice for each game, which was Lorenzo last time out. Tomorrow it will be him as well.”
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