Fabio Capello claimed that AS Roma’s hopes of progress in the UEFA Champions League will be determined against Belgian club KRC Genk next week, after his struggling side failed to break down AEK Athens FC in a goalless draw at the Nikos Goumas stadium in Group C on Wednesday.
Roma’s last trip to Greece 38 years ago - against FC Aris Thessaloniki - also ended in a scoreless draw and Capello expected a tough game, though French defender Vincent Candela saw his last-minute effort parried and Vincenzo Montella, along with Brazilians Cafu and Emerson all went close.
Genk game vital
Now Capello, whose team are yet to score in the competition and fell 3-0 to Real Madrid CF at home on Matchday One, says his team’s away match against Genk is vital. “Many things will be settled in the match against Genk,” he said. “Madrid are the favourites in this group as they are almost beyond the rest of the competition. My team is having difficulty scoring and we must put that right.”
‘Serious and tough’
The coach admitted an in-form Roma would have had less difficulty, but was careful not to detract from the performance of the visitors, saying: “A calmer Roma would have won but I must recognise that AEK are a serious and tough team and that it is very hard to win here."
Having seen Roma lose to Bologna FC and Modena FC in the opening two fixtures of the new Serie A season, Capello knows his charges need a win. “The winless run continued and we were unlucky, especially with Candela’s last-ditch attempt," he said. "But my players gave their best and I appreciate their efforts.”
AEK coach Dusan Bajevic has come under criticism as his team have also failed to score in their opening two Group C matches, but he was unapologetic. “Every team has to start in defence and make keeping a clean sheet the primary target," he said. "Scoring is the step after that.”
While Roma were dominant before the interval, the hosts gained the upper hand after the break but neither side fashioned a truly clear-cut chance and both looked toothless in attack. With Madrid crushing Genk 6-0 in the group's other match, it now looks certain to be a three-way battle for the runners-up spot behind the European champions.
Bajevic is unconcerned by the imminent break in the Hellenic National League after Greek Alpha Ethniki sides chose to strike when the government’s refused to provide clubs with funds following the collapse of a TV deal. “We also have players who are tired and for that reason the month break in the league is welcome," he said.
'Everything we are worth'
Bajevic's final thoughts also turned to his next opponents, an encounter with Madrid in another home game next Wednesday. “Now we have to face Madrid," he said. "We will have to show everything we are worth in that game.”
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