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With Philippe Mexès serving a two-match suspension for insulting a fourth official, AS Roma have lost their last two Serie A games, conceding seven goals in the process. The defender is available again for Wednesday's UEFA Champions League round of 16 opener against FC Shakhtar Donetsk, but knows his side's rearguard troubles are far from over.
The 28-year-old was quick to apologise for the incident at the end of Roma's 1-1 draw with Brescia Calcio on 2 February which earned him the suspension. "I made a mistake and I'm really sorry," he said. "I tend to talk a bit too much, but that is my nature." However it is sloppy defending, rather than loose talk, which he feels has been Roma's big problem of late.
Roma fell 2-0 at home to SSC Napoli at the weekend, yet the 20-times French international said "even if I had played, it doesn't mean we wouldn't have lost". The problem, he believes, is carelessness. "We concede too many goals and we have to improve," he said. "We have had our share of bad luck at times, but it's clear that if we took more care it would be easier to win games."
In the run-up to Shakhtar's visit, there have been unsettling stories off the pitch at Roma; the club are said to be awaiting an approach from potential new owners while several players' contracts are set to expire this summer. Former AJ Auxerre prodigy Mexès has faced questions over his own future, but is determined to live in the present with such a crucial task at hand as Shakhtar.
"At this moment, all I want to think about is playing as well as I can," he explained. "After all, there is no telling whether in my next match I won't have an accident, be ruled out for six months, and end up with no contract.
I have to be professional and I want to do the best I can for this team, where I have been playing for seven years. I have spent the most important part of my career here."
Mexès is also playing some of his best football, as he demonstrated when starring in France's 1-0 friendly win over Brazil at Stade de France last Wednesday; it was a game in which he was up against Shakhtar midfielder Jadson for over half an hour. Mexès was not a member of the side that beat Shakhtar 4-0 in Rome in the 2006/07 UEFA Champions League group stage, and goes into the rematch with an open mind.
"We will be facing a very strong team," said Mexès, who joined the Giallorossi from Auxerre in 2004. "This match could be a good medicine for Roma and we will do our best."
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