Coach: Roma gunning for another 'miracle'

Shine
Eusebio Di Francesco says his team must aim for a "miracle" against Liverpool with the Italian club trailing 2-5 ahead of today's UEFA Champions League semifinal second leg.
Shine

As Roma coach Eusebio Di Francesco says his team must aim for a “miracle” against Liverpool with the Italian club trailing 2-5 ahead of today’s UEFA Champions League semifinal second leg.

Roma came back from a 1-4 deficit in its quarterfinal against Barcelona by winning the return leg in the Italian capital 3-0.

“We must have belief and with this mentality, with these fans and this passion around the team, try to perform another miracle — and saying miracle is perfectly fine,” Di Francesco told reporters yesterday.

“Liverpool are really dangerous and they can hurt you as soon as you give them an inch. I want to clarify one thing — in a Champions League semifinal in front of 70,000 people, do you expect a team just to yield?

“No, we’ve got to be a battling team who give all they can — then the game can end 4-1 either way, but what I want to see is enthusiasm and desire to go beyond the limits,” he said.

Roma has not conceded a goal at home in this year’s UCL campaign.

“At home in Europe this season, we’ve only really struggled against Atletico Madrid,” Di Francesco said.

“Since then we’ve managed to contain our opponents and I hope it’s the same tomorrow. The passion of our fans should give us an extra push.”

Liverpool’s former Roma forward Mohamed Salah scored twice in the first leg and created two other goals as he ripped apart Di Francesco’s defense.

“Mohamed Salah has outstanding quality when they go long — but we can’t put three men on Salah. We’ve got to have the strength to put the right importance on our opponents, but also think of ourselves,” Di Francesco said, adding that his team needed a similar display from striker Edin Dzeko.

“The players have got to take responsibility — Dzeko even more so as one of the key players in this team. I hope he will be the man who — even more than Salah in the first leg — makes a difference in this game,” the Italian coach said.

“Our ambition should be to get to Kiev (for the final). I’ll try and treat this game like any other. I’ve passed on my ideas to the team and will convince them that this is achievable,” Di Francesco added.

Salah has scored 43 goals in 48 appearances in all competitions this season.

“If you lose focus just for a second in games like this, you get punished,” said Roma midfielder Radja Nainggolan, who has never scored in 23 UCL appearances. “We need to be fully focused for 95 minutes and give everything — that’s the only way we’ll be able to turn this around.”

There are concerns over fan violence surrounding the match after two men from Rome were arrested on suspicion of attempted murder following an assault outside the stadium before the first leg that left a Liverpool fan in critical condition.

“I can assure you there are really great fans in Rome — real fans — who mean well,” Di Francesco said when asked about the incident by a British journalist. “But a very small part of them — and I think you have them on your side, too, and generally all around the world — can ruin a beautiful sport like ours.”

The game is a rematch of the 1984 European Cup final that Liverpool won over Roma in a penalty shootout at the Stadio Olimpico — and it’s the first time that Roma has reached the semifinals since that year’s competition.


Special Reports
Top