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Whenever the UEFA Champions League is mentioned, AS Roma striker Mirko Vučinić's eyes light up.
Montenegro's Player of the Year for the last three seasons, Vučinić has reserved some eye-catching displays for Europe's showpiece competition. With the Giallorossi trailing Arsenal FC 1-0 going into Wednesday's first knockout round second leg, and the squad hit by injury, the No9 may need to impress again if the capital club are to reach the quarter-finals for the third year running. "It's a very important game but we shouldn't think about it too much because it gives you a sore head," said Vučinić, a relaxed figure at the pre-match news conference. "We just really want to go out and get the result."
Vučinić has been in superb form all term, adding the finishing touch to a game based on speed and skill. Roma's top scorer with nine Serie A goals, he has also struck three more in seven UEFA Champions League appearances. Two of them – one a brilliant solo effort – in November's 3-1 victory against Chelsea FC further propelled the 25-year-old into the limelight and increased expectations that he can deliver on the biggest stage.
"It doesn't matter who scores – the most important thing is getting through," said Vučinić in time-honoured fashion. "Everything will depend on how the game goes. We could get the goal in the first or the last ten minutes." With captain Francesco Totti struggling to recover from a persistent knee injury, Roma coach Luciano Spalletti has come to rely on the former US Lecce forward to step up to the mark. Despite a back problem at the weekend, Vučinić rose from the substitutes' bench with Roma losing 1-0 to Udinese Calcio and within four minutes had slotted in the equaliser.
The draw left Roma in fifth, one place outside the UEFA Champions League qualifying spots, but ambitions remain high in the Eternal City that Spalletti's side can get to the 27 May final on home soil. When asked whether he would prefer Roma to beat Arsenal and advance to the quarter-finals, or lose but gain a place in the top four of Serie A, Vučinić's reply demonstrated his positive thinking. "I'd prefer us to win the Champions League," he said. "That way we will definitely qualify for next season."
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