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    De Rossi: "Tough game after European exploits but we've got a strong squad"

    Daniele De Rossi was speaking on the eve of Roma v. Torino, in Serie A matchday 26.

    Here is what the Giallorossi coach had to say...

    Against Feyenoord it was a very tough game, physical and tense. How is the team? Has anyone not recovered, Diego Llorente aside?

    "The team is fine from a mental perspective, and very well in terms of passion. When you win a match with that kind of pathos, the sense of satisfaction remains, but some physical strains will linger too.

    "We ran and played for so many minutes, which we'll pay for in some way. Some choices will need to be made. Honestly, I don't know what to say yet. Yesterday we did very little. Those who had not played pushed a bit harder and those who had played 120 minutes did little to nothing. This afternoon we'll see how everyone is in training."

    What sort of game are you expecting against Torino?

    "They're a tough team to face but less difficult to understand. [Ivan] Juric was the first, or one of the first, that I went to spy on, to watch, with his permission and he was very kind. He was at Verona at the time.

    "I think Juric's Torino side is perhaps the worst opponent to face having just played 120 minutes, but we have a lot of players and quality, and we will be as ready as ever. They're a tough outfit – their defensive prowess is almost Champions League level. They have quality players. I have a great relationship with his assistant coach, Matteo Paro. It will be a good challenge, in short."

    Are you fearful of these two side effects: the post-victory hangover on the one hand and the fatigue on the other? Last year, Roma never followed up going through with a win in the league, though it was with a different coach.

    "I don't know what happened last year. I don't even remember what the schedule was. If the fixture list puts you up against Juventus or Inter, it is more difficult to win than if you meet other teams.

    "This is a tough game, but don't talk to me about a hangover. If it ends up being tough because we go in with the wrong mindset, that will mean I've done everything wrong. Everything.

    "At Frosinone I said that it was a tactical matter and my choices that could have caused our poor first-half display, but twice in a row no. Tomorrow I want to see the team going out there with the right attitude, motivated, to win the game, with great intensity, because for us every game is the game of our lifetime.

    "We have to run, there can be no let-up. Had we just won the cup and it's the final game of the season, I'd understand a bit of contentment. But we are in the round of 16 and so many more games have to be played to go all the way. So, it's nice to celebrate those nights, to enjoy them, for two, three, 12 hours, but then we have to look ahead. If the team goes out onto the field drunk with happiness, it means the coach has done a bad job in recent days."

    What about rotation?

    "There will definitely be some changes. I don't like rotation when you make 10 changes, as I've said many times. But there is a significant difference: an extra 30 minutes on the pitch and penalties, which still carry an extra emotional and physical stress.

    "We will evaluate the situation today. So often I'll say to you today that we'll see about the line-up but maybe I already know it. Today I do have to see – it's one of those days when I want to see how the players are and how they respond. Yesterday I talked to almost all of them, to understand their state, beyond the enthusiasm whereby they'll all say: 'I'm fine, I'm fine, I'm not tired.'  I need to understand if they are able to cope with a very demanding match, like all the matches you play against Ivan Juric's teams."

    I keep seeing a difference in attitude between the first and second half. Is it a mental or physical thing? Also, have you changed anything from a physical point of view? Compared with previously, this team starts strong and then perhaps drops off towards the end.

    "We've certainly changed some things – each coach brings his own methodology. I disagree – in some matches we did better in the second half, like in the first leg against Feyenoord, in Frosinone, in Salerno, and with Cagliari we managed the game.

    "I think the question you asked can be read in another way: 'You do really well in the first half, you are really good, what have you changed about the warm-up to start so strong?' You can't always play for all 90 minutes at the same level.

    "In football you always have an opposing side and you can have strong opponents. I don't read that many newspapers – I never do if we win or if we lose, but so many Feyenoord players are excellent. They have big futures ahead of them.

    "They're a strong side, like Inter. There we played the first half better than the second, but you can't play the full 90 minutes like that. They picked up bans because of how angry they were at the end of the first half, because of how much pressure they came under, more than they had before.

    "In the second half Inter came and said now we’re going to play. There are teams that do that. It can happen but it doesn't have to happen – we have to improve. I don't think it's a physical thing. We had a chance in the 120th minute against Feyenoord, the corner kick after and then there were for sure moments when Feyenoord pushed a little bit.

    "But in the first half we were very good. My dream is to play every game the way we played the first halves against Inter, Feyenoord and Cagliari. But it takes some work, it takes some time, it takes a lot of quality from the coach and the players. Maybe one day in the future we will get there.

    "The way we are today, after 40 days of work, I am not worried. And I am not worried about the methodology of work because physically we are fine. We have something that you don't have: we have the numbers, performance details. We have their condition, the number of accelerations, the number of high intensity sprints, distance covered and there is little to be worried about in my opinion."

    How is Chris Smalling doing? Also, I wanted to ask you about the Europa League draw – you will face Roberto De Zerbi's Brighton. He's coach you respect.

    "[Chris] Smalling is fine – we know he can't do 90 minutes. We are trying to see if we should sub him on or start him and then bring him off after X minutes. We are evaluating that. But he's fine, he's training with the others, he's fine in his movements – it's an evaluation we'll conduct over the next few hours.

    "On the draw, the other night I was asked: 'Who don't you want?' and I answered Brighton. Because it's a difficult game to prepare – it's an open game and we'll be up against a strong team that cause problems for a lot of big teams in the Premier League, the toughest league in the world.

    "He's a coach who I respect, who I love. He's been like an open book with me, and I'm not the only one. He has given me data, knowledge, even a word of comfort when I was fired. There's also the fact that our daughters met in London and became great friends. They see each other in pubs and Roma clubs in London to go and watch Roma, it's a very tender thing.

    "They'll go and watch the game together. I imagine his daughter won't be there next game with the Roma scarf because Elisabetta will surely be cheering on Brighton, but this thing without a doubt has united us even more. Beyond the human relationship, beyond his support, as a coach he's a genius.

    "You may like him, you may not like him, because he certainly brought something new. Bringing something totally new is something that only genius coaches can do.

    "He's someone I follow but not too much, because to ape certain coaches too much might be harmful, perhaps. But I consider him one of those very few coaches who have changed something and who everyone else tries to imitate. My professional respect for him is absolute, beyond friendship."

    One player who played the whole game on Thursday is Romelu Lukaku. Can he start from the first minute tomorrow? Maybe starting him from the bench could be a psychological blow. Thinking about tomorrow, could Lukaku alongside Tammy Abraham be a potential solution?

    "I'll start with that final bit. The day I arrived here and introduced myself to the players, I saw Lukaku and Abraham next to each other, I said: 'I would like to play these two together.' So it's an idea. But we're talking about an idea that has to be coached, studied. We're going into a period where I don't know how Tammy Abraham is going to be compared to the other players, who haven't missed as many months as he has.

    "It is an idea that I may like, but it is not a certainty for when Tammy comes back. The same goes for right now when we only have Sardar Azmoun as a back-up striker, otherwise we would have also kept [Andrea] Belotti who is another very important player.

    "My idea is to play with a forward and do more to exploit the space behind the striker and the outside flanks with those players there.

    "Lukaku? This moment is one of great joy for him – he was the first to run over to the fans with Mile [Svilar]. We didn't even go over the missed penalty, because penalties are missed. However, what we did analyse is that in the 120th minute he made a 50-metre sprint, took the ball past an opponent, took a right-foot shot and as good as scored.

    "The goalkeeper produced a miracle. If we analyse that, then it was a good performance, even without scoring – he will get to those moments he has always experienced. He's going to get a chance and stick it away, taking us to triumph. He's very calm, very serene, then there's the narrative that if strikers don't score for a couple of games they get disheartened. But we got through against Feyenoord, we drew 1-1 in the first leg thanks to a goal he scored. I couldn't be happier."