Roma coach Luciano Spalletti believes his team’s troubled start to the season can be attributed to “psychological” reasons ahead of the Champions League Group A visit of Chelsea.
After being pipped to the Scudetto last term by Internazionale, Spalletti has come in for criticism following four straight Serie A defeats, including a 2-0 defeat at Juventus on Saturday. Roma are also in danger of failing to make it out of the group stage, having lost at home to CFR Cluj on Matchday 1 and away to Chelsea a fortnight ago.
“More than technical or tactical, I think the problem is mental,” said Spalletti. “Our players need to maintain their self-belief. Producing fear is not the answer … I don’t have to intimidate my team to get results – that’s the worst thing a coach can do.
“The Chelsea game is crucial because, depending on the result, it will affect our performances in the coming matches against Bologna and Lazio. I’ve had tough times before in my career, but my future is at Roma.”
Francesco Totti, who has a knee problem, remains Spalletti’s one major doubt.
“Until the last 15 minutes, when John Terry scored, we matched them,” Spalletti said of the 1-0 defeat. “It’s not about counterattacking, we need to be solid and play as a group. That is the way to stop Chelsea.”
In contrast to Roma’s recent run, Chelsea are sitting at the top of the Premier League. They have scored 27 league goals, although their manager, Luiz Felipe Scolari, attributes their long awaited free-flowing football to a solid defence.
“It’s very important for us to have confidence in our defence,” he said. “We have very good players in midfield and attack so we know if we don’t concede, we have a good chance of winning.”
However, Scolari refuses to accept that Chelsea are better than last season when they finished runners-up in the two main competitions.
“We are not better, because to do that we have to get to finals and win them,” he said. “I think Chelsea are one of the best ten teams in the world, but not yet the first.”
Ashley Cole will miss out with a calf tear, but there may be another runout for Didier Drogba after his weekend substitute appearance.