Sporting Clube de Portugal coach Paulo Bento says it is "fundamental" his team beat AS Roma as they bid to make up ground on the side lying second in Group F.
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Sporting Clube de Portugal coach Paulo Bento says it is "fundamental" that his team beat AS Roma as they attempt to catch the Italian side in UEFA Champions League Group F.
Sporting lost 2-1 in the Italian capital two weeks ago and trail the Giallorossi by three points in the section. They picked up their only points so far with victory at FC Dynamo Kyiv on Matchday 2, and with a trip to group leaders Manchester United FC next, Bento knows Sporting can ill-afford to lose further ground at the Estádio José Alvalade. "It's fundamental for us to win against Roma in order to reach our first objective, which is to continue in this competition after the group stage," he said. "We know it's a good situation for Roma because they won the first game, and now they can defend from the start, something I believe they are very capable of. They have skilful players with lots of experience. But it is not impossible for us to win and we will try our best."
Roma captain Francesco Totti will miss the match because of the foot injury he sustained when these sides met at the Stadio Olimpico. Bento, though, does not believe his absence will necessarily work to Sporting's advantage. "Totti is a great player and he is always important for his team, but we're not relieved because he's not playing," Bento said. "In Rome, the player who replaced Totti scored the winning goal."
That was Mirko Vučinić and the Montenegro striker will continue in attack for the visitors. Despite being deprived of several key players through injury, Roma coach Luciano Spalletti will stick to his usual 4-2-3-1 system. With Alberto Aquilani and Taddei both absent, Vučinić will be supported by Mancini, Simone Perrotta and Ludovic Giuly with Daniele De Rossi and David Pizarro providing the anchor in midfield. Philippe Mexes returns in central defence alongside Juan after being rested for the 2-2 Serie A draw at Empoli FC on Sunday, while Marco Cassetti is expected to start at right-back with Max Tonetto on the left. Spalletti could also opt for Cicinho at right-back, in which case Cassetti would move to the left and Tonetto would play in a more advanced position in place of Giuly.
"There are no favourites in this match," said Spalletti, who dismissed suggestions his team have lacked focus at times this season. "We will try to maintain our concentration throughout the game. The Champions League is a wonderful competition and this will guarantee the motivation of my players. I trust them, they have the right attitude, they are skilful and they know what I expect from them."
Sporting's main concern is Serbia goalkeeper Vladimir Stojković who sustained a hip injury during Sunday's impressive 4-1 home win against A. Naval 1º de Maio. Reserve goalkeeper Tiago stands by. Midfielder Leandro Romagnoli is also doubtful after sitting out training on Tuesday because of a problem with his right thigh, leaving the way open for Celsinho to deputise if required.