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    De Rossi: "We need a serious performance against Empoli"

    Daniele De Rossi held his last press conference of the season on Saturday ahead of Roma's match against Empoli on Sunday.

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

    What's your first impression of Florent Ghisolfi? And how is Paulo Dybala? Is he ready for tomorrow?

    “The club has issued an official statement regarding the new technical director. I've spoken to him and my first impression is good. There will be plenty of time to talk about him, about summer transfers and everything that's to come. I know that's what you're most interested in at the moment but I have to get you to think about tomorrow. There'll be time to talk about everything else.”

    “As for Paulo, he's fine. He's been training regularly. He can play.”

    What have you learnt from these first six months?

    “It's been less than six months but I've learnt a lot and I've received a lot. I've remembered some things I knew already – like even when you do lots of good things, sooner or later you go through a difficult spell or you find people who can't wait to remind you there are things you're not able to do well. But I knew that already. I think I handled things well when we weren't winning all our games anymore.

    “These six months have reassured me about what I believe I can do, what I'd like to do in future and what I need to improve – both tactical aspects and management matters. But I've seen that we're in the right place and we're capable of staying here. So far, we've shown we're up to the task.

    “That said, football is a book that is updated every day. Every match gives you a different answer. Making a final analysis after half a season is a bit difficult. Next season will be a really big one for us, really important for Roma. We're at a point where we can step up to the next level and build something long-lasting.”

    Are you planning to make any changes to your recent line-ups? And are you still a bit hopeful you might get the Champions League?

    “I'm sure I'll be able to get it on TV...”

    I meant playing in it.

    “When it's the last game of the season, it's always someone's farewell match. We have seven or eight players on loan and two with expiring contracts. If I was to consider only those factors, the team would pick itself, and would probably be rather unbalanced.

    “It's possible that some players whose contracts aren't expiring will leave too, or that some of the loan players will stay. We can't know that now. I have to pick a team that I think can win the match tomorrow. That's the right thing to do.

    “Obviously this match is more important for Empoli than it is for us but we want to take it seriously and get some more points to keep Lazio behind us. We'd finish ahead of them anyway because of the head-to-head results but we still want points and we want a good performance to keep up the trend we've seen in recent seasons. A few years ago, it was easy to predict the outcome of games on the last day of the season, but that's less the case now. In our last game, Genoa had nothing to play for while we had everything to play for and yet they made us sweat till the very last minute. That's how it should be, both when things are in your favour and when they're not. We'll play as if we needed points desperately.

    What about the Champions League?

    “Quite honestly I think it's unlikely that this current Atalanta side won't be able to get the points they need to finish in the top four. I think it's very unlikely. But regardless of that, I'm already thinking about what we can do in the coming years to earn the points we need so that we don't have to rely on favours from other teams or the right permutations.

    “Once we realised that we wouldn't finish fifth – and I realised that a while ago – we were relying on several things slotting into place. Bologna losing yesterday doesn't give us much reason to be optimistic either.

    “But if we do end up playing in the Europa League, it's the competition I grew up with as a kid – the one I dreamt about when I was young. The Champions League was for the richest clubs. Roma's best European nights in recent years have been in the Europa League, so we'd be worthy and respectful of the competition. There are positives as well if you look at it differently. When you don't achieve the target you wanted, you have to find the positives in what you can still do.”

    How do you imagine your first summer as coach? What do you have in mind for pre-season?

    “When you're starting out as a coach and you put together your backroom team, you need people with more experience than you. It's my first pre-season but my chief fitness coach, who is the most important person when you're planning pre-season training, has maybe done 30. I'll rely on him and my own memories from when I was a player.

    “It's not as if I've never done pre-season before. I've never orchestrated one, but I know which ones went well and which ones didn't, and I know what it feels like to train hard in certain parts of the world and what it feels like to train hard in other parts of the world, which is what we should do. We're working along the lines of what I remember from my playing days and the suggestions of a fitness coach with many years of experience.”

    Do you have any regrets about Roma's results and how do you explain the difference seen with Atalanta?

    “First of all, playing a one-off match, a final, is a bit different to playing a two-legged tie against a team that's better than you on paper. By playing twice, you increase the chances of losing, whereas when you only play once your opponents might have an off day and you can get a result.

    “As I've said before, Atalanta were better than us – their players and their coach. They managed things better and they went into the game with more energy. They've been more consistent: they started off a little less well than usual and finished the season strong.

    “Roma have had a bit of a bumpy season. We struggled a little at the start and didn't get a lot of points. We had to play catch-up and we had to play an extra round in Europe.

    “We played against some very good teams and those games took a lot out of us.

    “There's also the fact that Atalanta are built – both physically and in terms of their squad make-up – to withstand all sorts of physical exertion and opponents. That may be a factor too.

    “They've had the same coach for a long time, since 2016, so it's obviously different. They know each other better. They've also been in this situation more often than us. Trying to replicate what they've done will be quite a challenge given that they've had a lot of time and now they have lots of money to spend too, plus lots of ideas and lots of experience playing together and bonding.”

    Have any of the players asked you for any kind of 'special treatment' with the Euros approaching? Before the final against Bayer, Gian Piero Gasperini said he felt confident because Roma's matches against Leverkusen showed them something they could work on. What do you have to say about that?

    “None of the players have asked for any special treatment going into this final game. They've trained really hard this week. We've asked them to play with great intensity and focus tomorrow. Sometimes when you've achieved your target or in any case when you can't achieve any more, even we coaches tend to do a bit less, or make it a bit more fun.

    “If we asked them to take it seriously and then in training just did rondos and played training games, that would clash somewhat with what we were asking. So we've had some pretty tough sessions and pushed them a bit harder than usual. They got angry and asked me we had to play a play-off or some other tournament they weren't aware of!

    “However, we felt it was important to maintain the right attitude. That's why we gave them a bit of a hard time – because they have to be on the ball on Sunday.

    “No one has asked me anything. They're all available for selection. When I pick the team, I'll consider whether there are one or two players who needed a rest a month ago, who we've kept pushing for months.

    “As for the other question, after our match against Bayer I said there was no better team than Atalanta to hurt Leverkusen because we tried to imagine two different games against them. One was to sit back and let them have the ball for a long time, and that's something they forced us to do at times, and they had lots of shots on goal. That wasn't the right approach to take. The other was the first 20, 25 minutes in Leverkusen, and the first 28 minutes in Rome, when we were very aggressive, held a high line and were willing to take them on man for man. It didn't work out for us because we made mistakes, and also because they were better. But if there was a team that could cause problems for this Leverkusen side, it was Atalanta, as they are the masters of playing that way.

    “I immediately thought Atalanta could win the final because of the playing styles of the two teams.”

    Will Leo Spinazzola make the squad? This will be Tommaso Baldanzi's first time back in Empoli. Have you spoken to him?

    “Spina won't be coming. He's not in bad shape but he's coming back from an injury. He's training but needs a bit more time before he can play again.

    “Baldanzi has worked really hard this week. He's ready to help the team, whether it's for one minute or for 90. I have to weigh up all the different factors, which can be tactical, physical and sometimes psychological.”

    Will Marash Kumbulla be at Roma next season? What area do you think needs strengthening the most?

    “It was two years ago today. That magical night in Tirana. For me it was a bit less magical because a friend of mine had a nasty accident that evening and was in a coma for 40 days. He's fine now and every year we send him best wishes on the 25th of May.

    “As for Marash, I haven't seen much of him because when I joined he was injured. The January transfer window was closing and we thought it would be better to send him out on loan to get games under his belt. We'll sit down and assess what's best for him, whether it might be better for him to have another experience elsewhere to get the playing time he didn't get this year.

    “He's an important player who's well liked by the his team-mates. I don't know him very well but the lads have said good things about him. We'll assess him, as we will everyone.

    “As for where to strengthen, it's still early. Sometimes you might think, for example, that your defence is sorted, your midfield less so, and your attack needs a complete rebuild, then two defenders can leave and you have to rethink the defence. Sometimes you get good or bad news that you have to adapt to. It's too early. We don't know enough about what we'd like to do during the summer transfer window.”