AS Roma vs Atletico de Madrid - Di Francesco relying on Strootman to inspire against Atletico



Posted Tuesday, September 12, 2017 by PA

Roma head coach Eusebio Di Francesco has identified midfield enforcer Kevin Strootman as his most powerful "weapon" ahead of Tuesday's Champions League battle with Atletico Madrid.

The Serie A giants are back in Europe's premier club competition after falling to Porto at the play-off stage last season and first up in Group C is a tricky encounter with recent finalists Atletico.

Diego Simeone's Spaniards won five of their group matches in 2016-17 and came close to beating city rivals Real into the final, with only a Cristiano Ronaldo hat-trick thwarting their bid to reach Cardiff.

Both Roma and Atletico have attack-minded approaches to football - the Giallorossi hit 90 league goals last term while the Rojiblancos smashed five past Las Palmas on Gran Canaria last month.

But Di Francesco, who succeeded Luciano Spalletti as Roma boss this summer, thinks the game will be won or lost in midfield - and the display of Dutch pass-master Strootman could be key to the outcome.

He told asroma.it: "Strootman is a leader both in training and on the pitch. He is a decisive player who knows how to lift the team. We will need players like him tomorrow, while I am counting on them all.

"We will need his strength of character against Atletico - he will be our main weapon.

"I want to see a determined team showing the right desire to get the result. It will be a football battle.

"Lately, Roma have not done much in Europe, while they have reached two Champions League finals and that doesn't just happen by chance.

"In order to compete with them, we will have to mirror their strengths while playing our own game."

The fact Roma's Saturday appointment at Sampdoria was postponed due to heavy rain could act as a blessing or a curse.

While the capital club's players got an extra day's rest, Atletico proved their match sharpness in a hard-fought goalless draw at Valencia's Mestalla.

Atletico's French defender Lucas Hernandez believes the bad weather which has been sweeping Italy could be a factor in this European clash, too.

He told Marca: "They haven't played this weekend so will be a bit fresher but that doesn't worry us.

"We are ready and we will go for it.

"We know the weather has been bad over there and we don't know what the pitch will be like but they'll have to adapt to the conditions just like us."

On the match, he added: "It will be a tough one, they are going to make life hard for us - the fans will make life hard for us. We will have to give 100 per cent to make the most of the opportunity."

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