Júlio Baptista is not underselling matters as his AS Roma team gear up for a decisive Group A fixture against FC Girondins de Bordeaux, saying that "the importance of this game cannot be underestimated – it's huge".
Article top media content
"The importance of this game cannot be underestimated – it's huge," was Júlio Baptista's take on AS Roma's decisive meeting with FC Girondins de Bordeaux. The Italian side may top Group A but so tight is the section that their UEFA Champions League ambitions could end with a defeat. "We have to give everything because even the slightest of errors could result in a massive setback."
The Giallorossi occupy pole position, a point ahead of Chelsea FC and two clear of Bordeaux, but in the one group with all still to play for, a home loss could yet herald their elimination. "It is the biggest game of the year," Baptista said. "I may have experience of such matches but I think we are all responsible for playing well at crucial times like this."
Baptista's performance in the 3-1 win in Bordeaux on Matchday 2 was crucial to Roma's change in fortunes in the competition. After a shock home defeat by CFR 1907 Cluj in their opening fixture, Luciano Spalletti's men fell behind to a Yoann Gourcuff strike before 'the Beast' pounced with two second-half goals, the first a gorgeous free-kick, to complete the turnaround following Mirko Vučinić's equaliser. It helped underline the Brazilian international's contribution at Roma since his summer arrival from Real Madrid CF. "I'm happy with how things have gone so far," he said. "It's always a challenge joining a new team in a new league with a new way of playing. You have to adapt and I think I've done that."
Baptista can operate either as main striker or attacking midfielder, and has been used by Spalletti as part of an increasingly devastating trident alongside Vučinić and Francesco Totti. "At the start of the season we had a lot of players injured. We've got through that and now we're on a bit of a run," the 27-year-old said of the team's run of four successive Serie A wins. "You can always play better though. We've had to get stronger mentally as much as physically, to show character and depend on ourselves. We are displaying more confidence now."
Although a draw would be enough for Roma to qualify, Baptista wants victory to avoid some big names in the 19 December draw for the first knockout round. "To be first in the group would give us a better chance of progressing further in the competition, as we would miss teams like [FC] Barcelona," he added. "We need to give 100 per cent against Bordeaux."