By Matthew Spiro in Monaco
AS Monaco FC's Italian goalkeeper Flavio Roma believes Chelsea FC will be harder to beat than Real Madrid CF because of the tactical abilities of their manager Claudio Ranieri.
The French club stunned Madrid in the principality a fortnight ago, clawing back a 4-2 first-leg deficit to draw 5-5 on aggregate and qualify for the UEFA Champions League semi-finals on away goals. But while confidence in the Monaco camp is understandably high, Roma is warning his team-mates not to expect a similarly open game against Chelsea at the Stade de Louis II tonight.
"We were lucky we caught Real on a bad day because technically and tactically they were not at their best and we could take advantage," he told uefa.com. "We must not expect the same on Tuesday. Chelsea are a very solid, well-organised team and while they have outstanding individuals just like Real, they also defend really well as a team."
The former Piacenza FC custodian thinks Chelsea, who have conceded just one goal in six Champions League away games, resemble a typical Ranieri side. "Like many Italian coaches Ranieri is tactically very shrewd and I am sure he will have the tactics right on Tuesday," Roma said. "I followed Ranieri's career quite closely when I was in Italy and he did well everywhere. He moved abroad because he wanted a new challenge - there was no shortage of Italian clubs hoping to hire him."
String of clubs
Roma's story is quite different. The 29-year-old has excelled for Monaco since his arrival in 2001 but had been forced to try his luck in France after struggling to establish himself in Serie A. "I don't think I was a failure in Italy because I always played well when I was given my chance," said Roma, who started his career with S.S. Lazio in 1991. He represented a string of lower division teams before returning to the top flight with Piacenza in 1999. "
The only thing I lacked in Italy was a coach who had confidence in me."
Monaco's Didier Deschamps certainly has confidence in the big Italian and will be relying on him to reproduce the sort of commanding display that kept the Madrid strike-force at bay for much of the game a fortnight ago. Roma recalled: "It was a pleasing performance in the second leg because I had some problems at the Bernabéu and people were starting to question my form. I made a good early save from [Zinedine] Zidane and that helped my confidence. Now I feel as though I am at my best again."
With no Italian club reaching the last four this season, Roma knows Tuesday's game will be closely scrutinised in his homeland, with himself, Ranieri and Chelsea goalkeeper Marco Ambrosio all set to be involved. "There is a lot of media attention in Italy and that is nice," said the Monaco No1. "It's great that Italy is sure to have a representative in the final - even if the clubs have not done as well as in previous years."
'Thrilled for myself'
Roma, though, is not looking at the game as an opportunity to prove himself to the Italian public. "It's the biggest match of my career and, if anything, I want to prove to myself that I am good enough to play regularly at this level," he said. If his form so far this season is anything to go by, there is every chance of him doing just that.
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