By Tom Kington
UEFA Champions League strugglers AS Roma will host Spanish superpower Valencia CF on Tuesday knowing they must win to stand any real chance of progressing in the competition, a task made harder by the last-minute loss of inspirational captain Francesco Totti on Monday with a back injury.
'Game of our lives'
"We will have to play the game of our lives to beat a great team like Valencia," said coach Fabio Capello, whose future with Roma - according to some Italian media reports - may be determined by the result. "We don't need a miracle, but we do want a brave performance," Capello added, pointing out that his players will need a dose of "heart and determination" to notch three points on Matchday Nine. Currently in ninth place in Serie A, 17 points adrift of the summit, Roma also lie bottom of Group B after losses to Arsenal FC and AFC Ajax.
Their quest to get off the mark in the second group stage will be hampered by the absence of defensive and midfield lynchpins Emerson and Walter Samuel due to suspension, while French international Vincent Candela is injured and new signing Oliver Dacourt ineligible. "
We're missing important players, but the rest of the squad is ready, and we have little alternative but to go out and win," said forward Marco Delvecchio, who will take over the captain's armband from Totti on Tuesday.
Valencia are firm favourites, coming off a 2-0 win at the weekend against Málaga CF which left them third in the Spanish league. They can also boast an impressive 17 goals in the first group stage of the Champions League - compared to Roma's paltry three. Additionally, the Italians are yet to win at home this season in the competition, while Valencia have not lost on their travels.
However the Spanish champions have only managed draws with Ajax and Arsenal so far in the second stage and as a consequence will be pushing as hard for a victory as their opponents. Valencia will also be without Miguel Angulo, who is starting a three-match ban, and Curro Torres, who has a serious knee injury.
Pablo Aimar and John Carew are expected to start up front for the visitors, and coach Rafa Benítez is unconcerned about the welcome his side might face. "
I have no fear of a hostile reception," he said. "We're used to it. And we will be helped by the absence of Totti and Candela."
For Valencia's veteran defender Amedeo Carboni it will be an emotional occasion as the 37-year-old returns to the club where he spent seven seasons before leaving for Spain. "It is very special to be back playing in Rome," Carboni said. "If Roma don't win tomorrow they're out and they know it, whereas we can draw and still have a chance."
Lima set for midfield
Capello's emergency selection may see Francisco Lima again moving from midfield to the left of defence. Nineteen-year-old Daniele Di Rossi could also be handed a tough Champions League baptism in midfield.
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