Fabio Capello has put the accent on defence for AS Roma's vital UEFA Champions League second group stage game at FC Barcelona.
Fabio Capello has put the accent on defence tonight for AS Roma's vital UEFA Champions League second group stage game at FC Barcelona.
Five at the back for Roma
The Italian side, facing perhaps the toughest challenge of their Champions League campaign so far, will field three central defenders at the Camp Nou as Capello attempts to stifle the Group B leaders. The chosen trio of Jonathan Zebina, Walter Samuel and Christian Panucci - playing his first game of this European campaign instead of Aldair - will need to be at their best to repel Barça's three-pronged attack of Patrick Kluivert, Rivaldo and Javier Saviola.
"Barcelona are a very dangerous team, capable of some extraordinary football and committed to attack," said Capello. "They always have a very high level of possession of the ball and what we'll have to do is wait for them, tie them down and hit them on the counterattack." With the mobile Cafu and Vincent Candela on the flanks, Roma will be able to break quickly, but perhaps the key player for Capello's side this evening is Francesco Totti, who returns after being rested for Roma's weekend meeting with Brescia Calcio. Totti lines up alongside Gabriel Batistuta to form a formidable striking lineup.
With the Primera División side currently topping the section, the Roma coach is well aware of the need to keep Carles Rexach's side in his sights if they are to progress from an extremely difficult group. "A draw isn't a bad result," Capello said, "but my players have got a winning mentality. We will see if Roma have the confidence to go out and take their chance. We're not coming looking for a draw, but rather for a win if we can."
Barcelona's Dutch defender Michael Reiziger - named as a substitute tonight - remained unconcerned on behalf of his team-mates, who are finally showing the kind of domestic form to push for a title after a stuttering start to the season. The Catalan club's cause has been boosted by the return of influential midfield player Luis Enrique after a lengthy lay-off.
Pressure on Roma
"We know that Italian football is more defensive and physical and it seems to add more pressure for us," Reiziger said. "But now we are in good form, we are playing at home, so it is them who will have the pressure. For them, the three points are important because they only have two points in the table whilst we have four. They have to look at us much more than we will have to look at them."