Manchester United vs. Roma Preview: Luciano Spalletti Believes In His Team

Manchester United vs. AS Roma (UEFA Champions League)

I’m not really sure how many Italian footy fans will tune in to watch Manchester United vs. Roma on Wednesday night, because let’s face it, Serie A representation in the 2007-08 UEFA Champions League will most likely stop at the Quarter-Final stage. After the debacles of AC Milan vs Arsenal and Inter Milan vs. Liverpool (and the associated triumph of English over Italian clubs) in the Round of 16, the Premier League vs. Serie A battle will hold its final chapter tomorrow, as the Mancunian Red Devils host the Giallorossi, comfortable with a 2-0 away win obtained at the Stadio Olimpico of Rome.

Any sane person would tag these as ‘insurmountable odds’ for Roma, but their manager Luciano Spalletti is ‘forced’ to believe in an exploit, and cites recent  history to back it up. Indeed, on March 6, 2007 , Roma obtained their ticket to the UEFA Champions League next round thanks to a 2-0 away win over Lyon (after the first leg in Rome had ended 0-0). Even more recently, on March 5, 2008 a determined Giallorossi side travelled to the Santiago Bernabéu and beat a van Nistelrooy-less Real Madrid team 2-1, going against the odds of the Merengues’ away goal in the first leg.

For the Roma manager, this tiny bit of hope is a lifeline…


Spalletti keeps a low profile on the eve of the second leg of the Champions League Quarter-Finals, although he believes in his team’s success at Old Trafford: “Manchester are an excellent team, but nothing is impossible in sports, and we are here to play“.

Gazzetta in English reports:

MANCHESTER, 8 April, 2008 – ‘Keep a low profile, be aware of the opponent’s strength and do not concede defeat’. This is Spalletti’s approach to the second leg of the Champions League quarter-finals against Manchester United, as stated by the Roma manager during yesterday’s press conference.

Luciano Spalletti, age 49Spalletti is cautious: “We have to play as if nothing happened at the Olimpico, without thinking of the score of the first leg. Attacking too much may be counterproductive. We have to take advantage of the opportunities we can create. Ferguson might have said he’s already thinking of Barcelona, but we’ll put up a fight“.

The Italian coach commented on David Pizarro and Bruno Conti’s recent criticism of Cristiano Ronaldo, guilty of too much showboating: “The tension of the moment has led to a few of these comments. The Portuguese is in excellent shape, and he brings in results“.

Spalletti then returned to the topic at hand, Wednesday’s match-up: ”Is there still a bitter aftertaste from last year’s 7-1 score? You have to learn to accept defeat in sports. We have learnt from that experience. After the first round’s result (0-2), it would be presumptuous from me to start making claims. We need to be humble and take into account what an excellent team they are“.

Man UtdPRAISE FOR THE OPPONENT – Spalletti praised the Red Devils: “In terms of the standings and the scores in the last few years, there is a slight difference between both teams. Can Manchester be a benchmark for quality? They can be a benchmark for many teams. You have to put up a fight against Manchester if you don’t want to lose. And even with a good fight, you can lose because they are an excellent team. We can all learn a lot from them. Ferguson is a real example“.

For Roma, this will be the Giallorossi’s sixth match against the Red Devils in one year: “There is so much that we can say about that. What comes to mind (on a positive note NE) is how their strikers are in fantastic form. I have seen Tevez and Rooney produce some great defensive plays against Boro. Italian and Spanish football rely more on tactics and technique, whereas Manchester also values physical strength and effort“.

So, could Spalletti’s ‘Yes we can’ become the sentence of the day? “Yes. Nothing is impossible in sports. You have to give it your best every game. I always believe that my players can overcome any adverse score, we are here to play, to qualify, and we certainly have no trouble scoring goals. But it will be a very difficult game“. 

As for Roma wing-back Marco Cassetti, his sentiment is in line with his manager’s: “We are not here on a field trip or to help them celebrate“.

Them’s fightin’ words!

Manchester Utd

Manchester United may well have ‘one foot in the semi-final‘, manager Sir Alex Ferguson stressed the Red Devils still have work to do, when AS Roma visit Old Trafford for the second leg of the sides’ Quarter-Final. reports:

Sir Alex Ferguson, age 66“‘Clock against Roma’ – The Premier League leaders’ 2-0 victory in Italy last Tuesday puts them within touching distance of a second successive semi-final but Sir Alex warned against taking anything for granted on Roma’s return to a stadium where they lost 7-1 at this stage last season. “We have got one foot in the semi-final” said the Scot, “but to get two feet in there we need to approach the match in the proper fashion and win it. In Rome, we worked our socks off tactically and with good discipline: that is what we will need again. We are not looking to do anything silly, that’s the first thing. The clock is against Roma so they have to do something, which might suit us because I think on the counterattack we are very good“.  

Ferdinand hope – Roma will have followed with interest the bulletins about the fitness of Rio Ferdinand, who injured his left foot in United’s 2-2 draw at Middlesbrough FC on Sunday. With Nemanja Vidić absent, Sir Alex hopes his other first-choice central defender will feature after a scan on Monday revealed no Rio Ferdinand, age 29fracture. “Hopefully we can get him fit [for Wednesday]” said the manager, adding that the experienced pair of Gary Neville and Mikaël Silvestre may appear at some stage, following injury absences of 13 and 7 months respectively. Paul Scholes is likely to make his 100th UEFA Champions League appearance.

‘Nothing is impossible’ – While Sir Alex predicted “one or two changes”, he admitted it would be “difficult” to leave out Cristiano Ronaldo, scorer of the opener in Rome and on target in ten in his last eleven games in this competition. It is perhaps with Ronaldo in mind that Spalletti may opt for the more defensive-minded Max Tonetto ahead of Mancini in left midfield. The Roma coach is still without Francesco Totti but does welcome back Juan and Simone Perrotta, other first-leg absentees. Yet despite his assertion that “in football nothing is impossible” (see above), a Roma comeback would constitute a major shock. United have an unbeaten European home record stretching back three years while the Giallorossi have prevailed only once in ten previous visits to England.

Moreover, besides the need to score at least twice, the Italian team must also keep United’s forwards quiet – it will be a tall order.


Match Facts

BBC Sport FootballThe following (courtesy of BBC Sport) are all the essential need-to-know match facts about Wednesday night’s fixture.



Manchester United and AS Roma have met five times before in European competition with United winning three times and Roma once. One match ended undecided. All five have taken place since the beginning of April last year.

The last encounter at Old Trafford, 2 October 2007, ended in a 1-0 win for the home side. The last knock-out meeting at the Theatre of Dreams on 10 April 2007, resulted in an emphatic 7-1 victory for United, who therefore progressed to the semi-finals. This was AS Roma’s heaviest ever European defeat and it was also the biggest victory margin recorded in the CL knock-out stages.

European CupsEuropean history

Manchester United have won three European trophies – the 1967-68 Champions Cup, 1990-91 Cup Winners’ Cup and 1998-99 Champions League.

The Red Devils have been knocked out of European competition by Italian sides six times; four times by AC Milan and twice by Juventus. Last season United they were eliminated by AC Milan in the CL semi-finals, losing 5-3 on aggregate.

In the 1960-61 season, AS Roma won the Fairs Cup, their only piece of European silverware to date. Roma have reached two other European finals; the 1983-84 Champions Cup final which they lost on penalties to Liverpool, and the 1990-91 UEFA Cup final, which they lost 2-1 on aggregate to Internazionale. Roma have never reached the semi-final stage of the Champions League.

Current European form

Manchester United have won their last 10 Champions League home matches. Victory against AS Roma will break the Champions League record which United currently share with Juventus. United are unbeaten in 13 Champions League home matches since losing 1-0 to AC Milan in February 2005.

United are unbeaten in nine Champions League matches home and away, since losing 3-0 at AC Milan in last May’s semi-final second leg. Sir Alex Ferguson’s side are one of two unbeaten teams in this season’s Champions League. Barcelona is the other.

AS Roma are unbeaten in three Champions League away matches.

Yellow & Red cardsPlayer and disciplinary info

Mirko Vucinic, Marco Cassetti, Cicinho, Daniele De Rossi, Max Tonetto and Philippe Mexès (AS Roma) are all one yellow card away from suspension, as are Nani and Patrice Evra (Manchester United).

Kick-Off of Manchester United vs. Roma will be at 20:45 CET.

Posted in English Premiership, Roma, UEFA Champions League |

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