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Roma seek home comfort

Published: Tuesday 26 November 2002, 23.28CET
Arsenal FC are not the ideal opponent for an AS Roma side searching for their first home win.

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Published: Tuesday 26 November 2002, 23.28CET

Roma seek home comfort

Arsenal FC are not the ideal opponent for an AS Roma side searching for their first home win.

By Tom Kington

AS Roma know that a first home win in this season's UEFA Champions League will not come easy against Arsenal FC.

Mean machines
The Giallorossi are the only side in Group B not to have won their domestic title last term, but one thing the Italian side have in common with AFC Ajax, Valencia CF and Arsenal FC - their opponents on Wednesday night in Rome - is a mean defence.

Defensive strength
Along with Roma, the latter two clubs let in only four goals in the first group stage while Ajax shipped five, making them the toughest teams to break down in the tournament and hinting at some tight contests ahead. "Every game will be crucial in this round but with the determination we are capable of, we can take on anyone," Roma coach Fabio Capello said. "We'll show respect but not fear - that doesn't exist."

Respect for Arsenal
Capello underlined his respect for the Premiership outfit when he described them as "the strongest team in Europe right now". He added: "They are strong physically and technically and can change the rhythm of their game. Like Real Madrid they play attacking players behind a single striker, but they play more direct football."

'Attacking game' expected
His Arsenal counterpart, Arsène Wenger, stuck with the theme of mutual appreciation when he said: "Roma are strong, very creative and well balanced and we expect them to play an attacking game, but it's very important for us to earn points away from home in this round."

Totti returns
With striker Marco Delvecchio and captain Francesco Totti back from injury, and Cafu likely to play, Capello's lineup will have a more familiar look than the one beaten 3-0 at Parma AC at the weekend - a defeat that left them nine points behind Serie A leaders AC Milan.

'I'm no saviour'
Totti said: "Coming back from injury, I am really looking forward to this game, not least because it will be my first Champions League game at home. But while I have a bit more responsibility as captain, I am not returning as the saviour of the team." That said, it was Totti who scored Roma's winner in Madrid in the first group stage - and his absence from their three home games coincided with their failure to win any.

Top Gunner
Arsenal, beaten at Southampton FC on Saturday, are missing the injured Nwankwo Kanu and Dennis Bergkamp, who did not travel, and Totti singled out Thierry Henry as the main threat. The French international's wonder goal against arch-rivals Tottenham Hotspur FC ten days ago contrasts markedly with the misses racked up lately by Roma's stuttering strikers Vincenzo Montella, Antonio Cassano and Gabriel Batistuta - one of whom will likely play alongside Totti and Delvecchio.

Batitusta warning
Batitusta will need no introduction to Arsenal's players given it was the Argentinian's goals for AC Fiorentina which eliminated the Londoners from this competition three years ago. Wenger said: "He's a great player who can be decisive in decisive matches." Wednesday's match may not be decisive but if Group B proves as close as anticipated, a good start could make all the difference.

Last updated: 02/12/02 12.01CET