By Matthew Spiro
His side may have lost a host of star players since reaching the final of the UEFA Champions League last season, but for goalkeeper Flavio Roma, there is no reason why AS Monaco FC cannot enjoy another successful season in the competition.
The 3-0 defeat against FC Porto in the final was to mark the end of Fernando Morientes, Ludovic Giuly and Jérôme Rothen's tenures as Monaco players, but as Didier Deschamps' side ready themselves for their opening Group A game against Liverpool FC, Roma insists they are full of confidence.
"We've lost some excellent players but the players who have come in are also of an extremely high quality," Roma told uefa.com. "We've started well in the league and we're all looking forward to playing in the Champions League again, although to do as well as last year is not going to be easy."
Monaco bought two strikers in the summer, with Uruguay's Ernesto Chevantón arriving from US Lecce and Mohamed Kallon joining from FC Internazionale Milano. Meanwhile, a third forward, Javier Saviola, was signed on loan from FC Barcelona.
"I knew Chevantón and Kallon already because they played in Italy and I still follow Serie A," said the former Piacenza FC custodian. "Saviola has really impressed me, though. He has fantastic technique and gets all his shots on target in training. That's is good for me because it means I get plenty of practice."
However, Monaco will be without their Argentinian international at Anfield as he is suspended, while Chevantón is missing with a knee injury, and Roma admits that will make their task even harder. "It's a blow to be without them because they are both potential matchwinners," he said. "But what is positive is that we have kept the same spine as last season, with the defence and the defensive midfield players staying, so hopefully we will be solid."
Roma believes that Monaco's defence could be their strength this season, with French trio Gaël Givet, Sébastien Squillaci and Patrice Evra starting the season in impressive fashion for both club and country. "There is no doubt they've benefited from last season's experience," he said. "They are all young, fantastically talented and they are trying to improve all the time. They fully deserve their places in the France team and international football will only help their development."
That defensive unit, which will include captain Julien Rodriguez after he made a successful return from injury at the weekend, is likely to be severely tested at Anfield. "It is a super match to start with," Roma enthused. "
The atmosphere will be electric and as soon as we step on to the pitch we will know that we are back in the Champions League."
With Olympiacos CFP and RC Deportivo La Coruña completing the group, Roma was reluctant to single out one club as Monaco's biggest threat. "Every match is winnable and every match is losable for us," said the 30-year-old. "I don't think you can say that one side is better than another. People might say that Olympiacos are the weak link but then everyone said that about Greece this summer and look what happened. We'll just concentrate on our game and try our best to get a result at Anfield."
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