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Eliminated from Europe by Manchester United FC in each of the last two seasons, AS Roma have an unenviable record on English soil. For one player in the Giallorossi squad, however, the prospect of facing another Premier League opponent in Arsenal FC holds no fears.
John Arne Riise spent seven happy years in England with Liverpool FC, making 234 Premier League appearances prior to his transfer to the Italian capital last summer. Having lined up against Arsenal 17 times during his stay at Anfield – including a substitute appearance in Liverpool's UEFA Champions League quarter-final win over the Gunners last term – he understands better than anyone in the Roma camp what to expect from their last-16 rivals.
"People say they are having a bad time but I've seen a few games lately and they are playing fantastic football," said the Norwegian international left-back. "They have great technical players in the middle and up front, they defend very well, and they have a strong physical presence up front with Nicklas Bendnter, who is very strong in the air. They also have quick, small players on the wing."
Although he considers Arsenal a "fantastic team", Riise expects a closely fought contest. "It is 50-50; we are both teams who like to play football, who like to keep possession. We are happy to have the second game at home, but in the [first leg] it is very important for us to do our best and play our style of football. I know the English style of football but we are here to play the Roma style of football, and if we do that we are good enough to win. We need a little bit of luck, too, because Arsenal are very good."
Riise, 28, may never have featured in a victorious visiting side at Arsenal but he knows all about winning in Europe's élite competition having played his part in Liverpool's UEFA Champions League triumph of 2005. Reflecting on his spell on Merseyside, he said: "Of course I am going to miss the people and the club. I was there for seven years but I've started a new career in Rome and am very happy about that. I had a fantastic career at Liverpool, I won the Champions League and lost one final, so I am not complaining."
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