Ahead of the visit of FC Dynamo Kyiv, AS Roma coach Luciano Spalletti said "showing character" and "thinking big" are key to success in the competition.
AS Roma will be eager to keep up their fine early-season form when they take on FC Dynamo Kyiv at the Stadio Olimpico in their opening UEFA Champions League Group F fixture.
Having finished as runners-up behind FC Internazionale Milano last term, the Giallorossi lead the Serie A pack with three wins out of three, having also beaten the champions last month in the Italian Super Cup. For coach Luciano Spalletti, who guided Roma on their best run in this competition in 23 years last season, before the heavy quarter-final defeat by Manchester United FC, "balance" will be key if they are to progress further. "As well as having one more year of experience under our belts, this year we are a much more balanced squad," he said.
'Better and better'
Although Romanian international centre-back Cristian Chivu left during the summer to join Inter, among the new players Spalletti has recruited are former FC Barcelona forward Ludovic Giuly and Brazilian defenders Cicinho from Real Madrid CF and Juan from Bayer 04 Leverkusen. "We have just the one objective – to get better," added the coach. "While we want to attack, we have to be careful not to leave spaces at the back. Against Manchester United last season, we weren't relaxed and we were too eager to score too quickly."
The Italian has tipped Roma's conquerors in 2006/07 to be the team to beat in Group F, which also includes Sporting Clube de Portugal. "I think we're in one of the most difficult groups this time and everyone will be dangerous, but United are the strongest," he said. "The most important thing in the Champions League is to show your character, think big and overcome the difficulties."
On the defence
Third in the Ukrainian Premier League, seven points adrift of leaders FC Shakhtar Donetsk, Dynamo Kyiv's start to the campaign has been disappointing by their high standards. "We know Roma are a strong squad, and we have to be careful because they can move quickly from defence to attack," said coach Anatoliy Demyanenko. "Of course we hope we won't lose, so a draw wouldn't be a bad result."
Other than a 3-0 default win over Roma three years ago, Dynamo's record on Italian soil – two draws and four losses – hardly inspires confidence. Although they clinched the league and cup double last term, Dynamo failed to progress beyond the UEFA Champions League group stage for the sixth time since reaching the last 16 in 1999/00, finishing bottom of their group with just two points.
"Like Roma, we have worked hard in the last three years to improve things when we play in Europe," continued Demyanenko, who will make a late decision on fit-again striker Artem Milevskiy. "But there are no easy games. Football is something you cannot predict so we have as good a chance as the others in the group."