Roma were defeated 3-0 by derby rivals Lazio on Saturday, leaving them three points adrift of a top-four place. “We’ve tried to improve certain situations. Mentally it’s not going right for us this year and we need to change,” said Di Francesco… Roma goes into their Champions League last-16 tie with Porto amid speculation over manager Eusebio di Francesco’s future.
Reports in Italy suggest the 49-year-old could be sacked if his side loses to their Portuguese rivals on Wednesday. The Serie A side holds a 2-1 lead going into the second leg after Adrian Lopez gave Porto a late lifeline.
“There’s no way you can underestimate the derby. The way we played had nothing to do with the Champions League. This has happened to us too often this season and we really must work on the mental side of things.
“We seem to be on and off.”
Captain Daniele de Rossi added: “In the last few games we have struggled. It’s a moment we need to regroup; we need to get ready over the next few days as we have a vital game coming up. Wednesday’s match will have a big impact on the rest of the campaign.”
At 19 years and 225 days, Nicolo Zaniolo became the youngest Italian to score twice in a Champions League game to put Roma in control of the tie.
“He is becoming a very good player,” Di Francesco said of Zaniolo. “We just need to keep working hard to remove a few mistakes from his game. Sometimes he is almost too eager to win the ball in midfield when he should play with more patience. We cannot complain, though.”
Porto manager Sergio Conceicao, meanwhile, renewed his contract with the Portuguese side last week until 2021.
Conceicao’s side were knocked off top spot in the Primeira Liga at the weekend after a 2-1 defeat by title rivals Benfica, but Lopez’s away goal at Stadio Olimpico has given his side hope of progressing to the quarter-finals.
“We need to win the game, but not so quickly. We have to be at a good level defensively – Roma have the third-best attack in Serie A. Balance will be essential to get the win,” said Conceicao.
“The collective is what counts. Our confidence is from our day-to-day work, not from any individual player. “We need to be effective in attack, but also in defence. There’s no need for a battle cry: the game is in our hands.”
Porto has no new injury concerns, with forwarding Moussa Marega back after missing the first leg with a thigh strain. Roma defender Kostas Manolas has been passed fit for the trip to Porto despite missing their defeat by Lazio at the weekend.
Zaniolo is also available after being forced off against Lazio on Saturday, though the Italians will be without injured pair Javier Pastore and Cengiz Under.
- 45.8%, or 11 out of 24, of the teams to have won 2-1 at home in the first leg of a Champions League knockout tie have progressed to the next round.
- Porto defeated Roma in their two previous two-legged encounters, most recently in the 2016-17 Champions League play-off.
- The Portuguese side hope to reach the quarter-finals for the first time since 2014-15. Roma reached the semi-finals last season before being defeated by Liverpool.
- Roma have lost each of their last seven Champions League knockout stage matches away from home, last winning an away knockout game in March 2008.
- Meanwhile, Porto have won none of their last six Champions League knockout games, losing five and failing to score in four of those.
- And Porto haven’t progressed from a two-legged tie in Europe’s elite competition after losing the first leg since October 1986.
- Seven of Roma’s starting XI in the first leg against FC Porto were Italian – the first time they have started as many in a Champions League game since 2010.
- Roma had nine shots on target in the first leg, the most Porto had allowed an opponent in the Champions League since April 2015 – a run of 29 games.
- Nicolo Zaniolo became the second youngest player to score a brace in a Champions League knockout match behind Kylian Mbappe in April 2017.
- Edin Dzeko has been involved in 14 goals in his last 11 Champions League appearances for Roma. He’s only failed to score or assist in one game during this run.
Source: BBC News