Quarter-final – 1st leg
Luciano Spalletti is looking forward pitting his wits against Sir Alex Ferguson as his Roma side make their first appearance in the Champions League quarter-finals against Manchester United.
Spalletti described Wednesday’s game as his biggest yet but he hopes to enjoy the occasion.
“Coaching Empoli FC in a promotion play-off was important but somehow I think playing United in a packed Stadio Olimpico beats that,” Spalletti said. “It’s an amazing feeling but I’ll try to stay calm and enjoy the game.”
Roma ended Lyon’s 18-match unbeaten home run in the previous round, and after he is now relishing the prospect of taking on Ferguson.
“Sir Alex is a wonderful coach but there’s a difference between him and me: he’s won 29 trophies, I’ve won one Serie C title,” Spalletti added. “I’ll watch the way he approaches the game, as I always do when I’m up against great coaches, and I’ll try to take some tips.”
Spalletti, however, want his team to show United too much respect, and is encouraging his players to approach the game with a positive frame of mind.
“I’d like us to attack more than we did against Lyon. I’m sure United will come at us but we’re confident. The Lyon victory has boosted our self-belief.”
Ferguson, meanwhile, was equally complimetary about Spalletti, praising him for “creating a system” by operating without a centre-forward.
“Big coaches make brave decisions and his decision to play this way was brave,” said the United manager.
Captain Francesco Totti will again be the furthest forward, supported by wingers Mancini and Taddei. Simone Perrotta may drop deeper to cover for the suspended David Pizarro, allowing Christian Wilhelmsson a free role, while Marco Cassetti comes in for injured full-back Max Tonetto.
United have injury concerns over Nemanja Vidi? (collarbone) and Ji-Sung Park (knee) to compound the loss of long-term absentees long-term absentees Mikael Silvestre and Gary Neville. Ryan Giggs is expected to partner Wayne Rooney in attack, freeing up a midfield berth for Kieran Richardson or Alan Smith.
“Our squad is being tested but we’ve proved over the last few weeks that those coming in are capable of doing the business,” added Ferguson.
The Premiership leaders are still on course to emulate their treble achievement of 1998-99 and Ferguson believes the current team has enormous potential.
“They don’t have the overall experience yet but they’re young and they have their careers in front of them,” he said. “They all want to win trophies and if they start doing it early that’d be fantastic.”
Doni; Marco Cassetti, Cristian Chivu, Philippe Mexes, Christian Panucci; Simone Perrotta, Daniele De Rossi; Taddei, Christian Wilhelmsson, Mancini; Francesco Totti.
Edwin van der Sar; Wes Brown, Rio Ferdinand, John O’Shea, Gabriel Heinze; Cristiano Ronaldo, Michael Carrick, Paul Scholes, Kieran Richardson/Alan Smith; Ryan Giggs, Wayne Rooney.