Delio Rossi and Thomas Schaaf cut contrasting figures ahead of S.S. Lazio and Werder Bremen's crucial UEFA Champions League Group C tie at the Stadio Olympico.
Coaches Delio Rossi and Thomas Schaaf cut contrasting figures in press conferences ahead of S.S. Lazio and Werder Bremen's fourth UEFA Champions League Group C outing in Rome on Tuesday.
Although just a point separates the teams, the visiting German sounded upbeat while his Italian counterpart looked just the picture of a coach whose side have suffered four straight home losses. "It's definitely not a good time and the defeats are not helping morale," said Rossi. Lazio also went down 2-1 in Bremen two weeks ago. "Playing every three days is tough. I have no fresh players but that's not the problem. If I don't have the time to work in training on our defensive errors, it becomes difficult to sort them out."
Hard to handle
Lazio, who finished third in Serie A last term, have won only two of their eleven league matches this season, leaving them in 15th position, one point above the drop zone. The latest team to take the points from the Stadio Olimpico were ACF Fiorentina after a goalkeeping error from 43-year-old Marco Ballotta on Saturday. The Biancocelesti have felt the full force of recent injuries to key players – defender Sebastiano Siviglia and playmaker Stefano Mauri. To make matters worse for Rossi, forward Goran Pandev, who struck twice in Lazio's 2-2 home draw with table-toppers Real Madrid CF, has also been ruled out with a thigh injury after a late fitness test.
Love and pride
"It's like being in a marriage," said the coach. "You shouldn't blame each other. It would be easy to get on the back of players when things aren't going well but I don't think it's right to find culprits, to make goodies or baddies. We can't cry over errors as I don't believe in being lucky or unlucky. We have our pride and our duty. The players may be tired or injured, but I haven't seen anyone that doesn't want to wear the shirt." Despite Lazio's poor run of results, Schaaf, whose Bremen side have gone seven Bundesliga games without defeat after two opening losses in Group C, has urged his players to be wary of Lazio.
"Sometimes the Champions League can be a good escape from your troubles in the league," he said. "They have been playing well but have been unfortunate." Werder have hardly been blessed by fortune themselves but have responded well to adversity and lie third in Germany. "Our squad have grown strong together," added Schaaf, who has midfielder Torsten Frings and striker Boubacar Sanogo missing while midfielders Daniel Jensen and Carlos Alberto are both on the road to recovery. "We have been playing well lately and although both teams have good players, I'd say we're more attacking than Lazio and I'm confident of picking up the points."
Portugal forward Hugo Almeida, who scored the only goal – his sixth of the campaign – in Saturday's success against FC Hansa Rostock, has earned special praise from his coach: "We always knew he was a great player and that one day he would come good." Schaaf will hope he does so again on Tuesday.