After a record eleven straight victories in Serie A last term, Roma coach Luciano Spalletti says it is “wonderful” to have Roma back in the tournament, as he contemplates tonight’s encounter with Shakhtar Donetsk
“They have a team full of internationals,” said Spalletti. “They’ve won five out of six in the league, scored a lot of goals, can switch formation, are fast and can play good football. They are a team that demand respect.”
“Roma are favourites,” responded Mircea Lucescu, “although it is important for us to pick up points everywhere in the group.”
Lucescu admitted that he is concerned at how his players will cope with a capacity crowd in Roma’s Olympic Stadium.
“We are just not used to 70,000 fans,” he conceded.
Spalletti is set to keep faith with the team that opened their Serie A season with a win over Livorno. Francesco Totti will play as a lone forward, supported by Simone Perrotta and Brazilians Rodrigo Taddei and Mancini.
Punishments to Juventus and Milan subsequently gave the Giallorossi their place in the Champions League.
“I am more comfortable this year because I know the team better,” Spalletti continued.
“When things go wrong now, the team know how to fix them on the pitch.”
Lucescu, too, is happy with the players at his disposal. The Shakhtar coach expects the “vision, control and intelligence” of Elano to cause problems for Roma, although “Fernandinho is suspended and will be sorely missed, while Matuzalem has had fitness problems but will play – he is very important”.
Matuzalem is expected to lead a midfield diamond flanked by Elano and Igor Duljaj and backed by Anatoliy Tymoshcuk.
Doni Marangon; Max Tonetto, Cristian Chivu, Matteo Ferrari, Christian Panucci; Daniele De Rossi, Alberto Aquilani; Simone Perotta, Rodrigo Taddei, Mancini; Francesco Totti.
Dmytro Shutkov; Tomác Hübschman, Razvan Rat, Mariusz Lewandowski; Darijo Srna; Elano Blumer, Anatoliy Tymoschuk, Matuzalem, Igor Duljaj; Brandão, Ciprian Marica.