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Capello calls for cool heads

Published: Tuesday 18 March 2003, 20.50CET
AS Roma coach Fabio Capello believes his side still have a chance of progressing.

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Published: Tuesday 18 March 2003, 20.50CET

Capello calls for cool heads

AS Roma coach Fabio Capello believes his side still have a chance of progressing.

By Tom Kington

AS Roma go into Wednesday's UEFA Champions League Group B match against AFC Ajax in something of a precarious position. While their Dutch opponents need only a point to guarantee a place in the quarter-finals, Fabio Capello's Roma must win at home and hope that Arsenal FC avoid defeat against Valencia CF in the section's other fixture in Spain.

'We need to be aggressive'
Six draws from ten Group B matches may hint toward another stalemate at the Stadio Olimpico, but Capello is preparing his troops for an attacking display. "Considering our poor Italian league showing we must absolutely win this game and to do that we need to be aggressive, but without losing our tactical awareness," said Capello, who will be without captain Francesco Totti and defensive mainstay Walter Samuel, who are both suspended.

Trailing rivals
Indeed, Roma's showing in Serie A this season has been far from inspiring. A 1-0 defeat at the hands of AC Perugia on Sunday left the Giallorossi languishing in eighth place, ten points behind city rivals S.S. Lazio - who occupy the final berth for a place in the Champions League next season.

Qualification lifeline
Written off by many following three straight defeats at the start of the second group stage, Roma restored pride with a 3-0 away victory over Valencia on Matchday 10 before throwing themselves a qualification lifeline with Matchday 11's 1-1 draw with Arsenal at Highbury.

'No fear of errors'
Capello for one is refusing to rule out elimination prior to the visit of Ajax. "Two games ago we were on zero points, facing away games in Valencia and London and given up for dead, so I am satisfied to be here with a chance," he said. "We need now to show the same will we showed against Arsenal and Valencia, with no self doubt and no fear of errors."

'We'll play to win'
For Ajax the picture is much more clear. A draw would book Ronald Koeman's side a last-eight berth, but the Ajax coach dismissed talk of the Dutch champions playing for a point. "We'll play to win, since playing for a draw is very dangerous, and anyway we don't have a defensive team," Koeman said, adding that team doctors were "confident" that Zlatan Ibrahimovic would play despite a hamstring injury.

Ibrahimovic to start?
Ibrahimovic, Ajax's 21-year-old scoring sensation, was on target twice in Ajax's 2-1 weekend victory over SC Excelsior and was already catching the eye of Roma scouts before he scored in his side's 2-1 win against the Italians in Amsterdam on Matchday 8 - Ajax's only victory in the group so far.

'They will fight'
Koeman is proud of his young side's achievements in the Champions League but is wary that Roma still pose a threat in an all-or-nothing situation. "This is Roma's last chance to show what they are capable of and they will fight," he said, adding that if Ajax fail to go through "we will still have achieved something and that is important for a young team with hardly any experience at this stage".

Last updated: 19/03/03 20.51CET