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    De Rossi: “We won't alter the way we play”

    Daniele De Rossi held a press conference on the eve of Roma’s clash with AC Milan in the second leg of the Europa League quarter-finals.

    Here’s what the boss had to say...

    Let’s begin by discussing a player who won’t feature, Evan Ndicka. How’s he doing? Can we say you gave a lesson in humanity in what was a testing moment – and one that shouldn’t be taken for granted?

    “First and foremost he’s OK, which is the most important thing. He's as good as a lad who’s just suffered a collapsed lung can be. It’s an ordeal, it’s painful, but it’s not as scary as we’d imagined it to be in the heat of the moment.

    “I think people can take whatever lesson they want from it – if there’s a lesson to be taken at all from this situation. We received a lot of praise for something that we deemed to be a standard course of action.

    “We did what seemed instinctive and sensible to do on the pitch, me, the players, Maurizio [Lombardo], Lina [Souloukou] and Vito [Scala]. If someone takes a lesson from it, then it’s a sign that the world and society as a whole are in a bad place. If somebody sees something wrong with it, that just shows you where we are. I hope that any coach would’ve acted as I did. Any player faced with the prospect of having to continue a match would have tensed up, knowing their team-mate had suffered such an injury or – as the guy with the electrocardiogram had told us – that Evan was in the process of suffering a heart attack.

    “When such a situation is up in the air – out of respect for your fellow professionals, everyone involved, and the paying public – it’s not about setting an example, it’s about doing what’s right, taking a standard course of action. We all agreed on this. None of the players wished to proceed with the match, and it wasn’t my call to abandon the fixture, as has been written. It was a collective decision, backed by the club. It’s nice to be reminded of what a family we are in such moments, not just when we win matches."

    Will the situation that Stefano Pioli is going through, regarding the importance of this match for him and the bearing it has on his future, impact on tomorrow and Roma’s preparations?

    “When people talk about such a situation being ‘a crossroads’, it's because the media have hyped it up to be this. I’d tend to avoid commenting, but not to disrespect the writer, but because sometimes such information isn’t true. Milan are second in the table, and aside from their defeat to Roma they’ve been in great form.

    “They are playing really well so in that regard I don’t think they’ve got any issues. It is indeed an important crossroads for them – having dropped out of the Champions League they found themselves in the Europa League, and so winning it becomes a tangible and feasible objective.

    “They need to win tomorrow, so the match is very much do-or-die for them, as is the norm for second legs, knowing they have to overturn the first-leg result.”

    Do you have any news about the rearranged match against Udinese? It seems it might be played on 25 April. What's your position on that, considering the rescheduling of Atalanta v Fiorentina as well?

    “Lina, Maurizio and the management are dealing with that. We know there are various options, different dates – although not that many, to be honest. We know it's difficult for the organisers too, the people who have to decide when these games – the remainder of our game – are to be played.

    “I think it's a good thing if they can't find a date as it means we've all gone quite far in Europe and that's a reason for Italian football to be proud. Precisely for this reason, Italian football should try to protect the teams that have done well in Europe.

    “Generally speaking though, we need to protect all the teams and the integrity and the regularity of the league. You can't create a precedent and play a match after the league has finished, so I hope and I think they will find a logical solution. They're not going to set a precedent with something that's never happened in Italian football before.”

    In the first leg, you put Stephan El Shaarawy on the right to restrict Milan on their left flank and it worked well. When something like that works so well, what do you do in the return leg? Are you considering something different?

    “It's an interesting question and one which I think reveals the essence of this job. You're always looking for something that might work but at the same time you're always afraid of trying to do too much. That's what [journalist Daniele] Lo Monaco always writes about in his articles.

    “I think there are certain qualities that your opponents have which you should always be respectful of. You have to figure out to what extent something that worked in the first game can be changed by your opposite number and how willing they are to change, because it's not as if we won 7-0 and they never got out of their area.

    “We played really well and deserved to score a few more but Milan played well too. They weren't on the back foot the whole time. We did well and managed to put into practice the plan we'd prepared, but it was a balanced encounter in which we did better.

    “We don't think they'll radically alter their set-up but they might change a few players or something in their approach. When you prepare for a match you must always be careful not to alter your team too much if you don't need to.

    “[Nils] Liedholm always used to say. 'I set them up perfectly, then they moved and everything changed.' It's true: we can't create hundreds of different situations thinking about how Stefano Pioli will play, because he might not play that way and it would just create confusion. We're considering making a few changes but we're not going to make any drastic changes.”

    You've been in the job for 100 days now and it's been pretty positive so far. Do you see this match as something of a crossroads for yourself as well?

    “Every match is a crossroads for me. Tomorrow is an important crossroads. This is my first time as coach in a European competition, it's going quite well and I don't want it to end. Just now he [Lorenzo Pellegrini] said something that stirred me: 'This is a road that can lead to happiness.'

    “What could be more important than that? A road leading to happiness. Tomorrow is part of that road. Part of it could come to an end but we'd still have another part – trying to get into the Champions League. But it is very important to me.

    “I know that if we lose 2-0 tomorrow, I won't be in the Europa League semi-final and that's one direction. But I also know that if we don't lose 2-0, if we draw 0-0 for example, I'll have the chance to play a Europa League semi-final.

    “What could be more important for us right now than joy, pride and glory? We don't know whether the road will last another six weeks or another ten years, but if we're always thinking about how long it will last, how much my job is at risk depending on the result, we won't even be able to enjoy the moments we can enjoy.

    “Since coming in 100 days ago, there have been lots of days when I've felt happy – and not just the days when we've won. It includes tough training sessions and sessions in the rain. In difficult times, when we talk together, I feel very happy to be a coach. I'm happy to be a coach in general, but doing it here at Roma makes me very happy

    “That's what I'm thinking about, not how much my chances of being kept on depend on the result tomorrow.”

    This is the first time you've really had to defend a scoreline since you've been here. How does that change things for you?

    “It's a game like all the others. If you're talk about defending a scoreline, being smart, not leaving yourself exposed, those are things you can talk about in any game, which we may have done in the first leg too.

    “Obviously if it's still 0-0 in the 90th minute, we won't be going looking for a goal, but we'll go into the game looking to win it, to score, as that could be a big blow for them. Us scoring wouldn't be the end for them but it would be a big blow.

    “We know that if we sit back and defend inside our area, they will score sooner or later. We'll need to play in a similar way to in the first leg. We might have conceded at the end of that game but then we could have scored a couple more ourselves. The emotional aspect will be very important in this match – the second balls, the scrappy balls, as well as our quality in and around the box.

    “We're still going to go out there and try to score.”

    Do you believe in factors like a club's European pedigree, as people say Milan have in this case?

    “No, I believe the only thing that matters is what our players do on the pitch tomorrow. Milan are a great team and in recent years they've always finished 10-15 points ahead of us in the league. That means they're better than us. But in the first leg we showed that the difference is not so great, if there is any.

    “When I was a Roma player, we were knocked out by Panathinaikos, by Middlesbrough, by teams with less pedigree than Roma, but we also knocked out the likes of Barcelona, Real Madrid and Lyon when they were a phenomenal side. We beat Chelsea, Atletico Madrid and others besides.

    “I think clubs like that, besides any pedigree they might have, also have financial power and tremendous appeal, so they can afford the best players around – that's why they often win.

    “In this case the statistics say that Milan have done better than us. We recognise that, we're aware of it and congratulate them on it. Pioli's track record says he's better than me and I have huge respect for him, but the first leg showed there's not such a big gap and that we can give them a game. It's 50/50.

    “We're one game away from a big achievement, as reaching a semi-final would be. Having said that, it's not a real achievement – that would be lifting the trophy – but it's a pretty good position to be in. And Roma, which you don't consider to be on the same level as the likes of Real or Barcelona, have reached four European semi-finals in the last six years.

    “That means we're going in the right direction as a club because the players have changed, the coaches have changed, and yet you see that sort of consistency.”

    How big an impact will Bryan Cristante's absence have on the match? Secondly, I wanted to know if you've heard about the fan who's between life and death, and if so, what you think about it?

    “I'll start with the lighter question. Edoardo Bove will play instead of Cristante and I have complete confidence in him. Bryan's absence changes nothing to the way we play and the choices I'll make. He's a big loss, a very important player for us, but another player will play who we all have great faith in. He'll have a great game and leave the pitch with his shirt drenched because he's an excellent player and he deserves it.

    “As for the other question, which is a more delicate matter, Gianni [Castaldi] and I had decided to talk about this at the end of the conference. While we can't make promises like 'We'll win for you', we can promise that we'll give everything we have for him and all Roma fans.

    “Obviously it's a story we were very moved by and we've spoken about it, with Gianni, Lina and Maurizio. The club is trying to get in touch with the lad to talk to him, if he wants to, and to speak though the radio station and do something he might like. We don't really know what to do as it's a very delicate situation, but if we can make an appeal here it's that we're not able to get in contact with him and if he wants to, he can contact us.
    “It's not just us who have been affected by this story. I've written to lots of people I used to play with, like Emilano Viviano, who was in tears. We can't do anything more than try to get in contact with him and perhaps respect the fact that he might want to stay out of the limelight, but if he did want to come and visit us, we're here. We're trying to make contact but haven't been able to.”

    How important will the emotional aspect be in a packed-out Olimpico?

    “It's part of the game. Thankfully that's part of football too. You can analyse everything from a tactical perspective, you can think all sorts of things and all sorts of things can happen during a game. Barcelona v PSG looked like it was going one way and then one moment changed everything. There are thousands of games within a game, which can be won by a tactical change or an individual moment of magic.

    “The players' mood can influence the match. The emotional aspect will definitely have a part to play, although it might not be decisive, since the players on the field are used to playing in these competitions. We'll be able to control our anxiety and excitement but sometimes something happens in a game that can knock you down or give you wings in just a few minutes.”