Going well in Italy, an AS Roma squad with Serie A and senior international experience face Chelsea FC in the semi-finals determined to play all their cards.
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AS Roma have one of Italy's most famous youth academies and the team coached by Alberto De Rossi – father of Roma and Italy midfielder Daniele – are enjoying a brilliant campaign. Not only have the Giallorossi reached the UEFA Youth League semi-finals, they also lead their section of the Campionato Primavera – the youth version of Serie A – and are through to the Coppa Italia Primavera final.
What's more, they are providing players to the senior squad, with 18-year-old winger Daniele Verde featuring regularly for Rudi Garcia's side since creating two goals on his Serie A debut, the 2-1 win at Cagliari Calcio in February. Five-cap Paraguay forward Toni Sanabria has also broken into the first team, though boss De Rossi has a ready-made replacement in powerful Slovak striker Tomáš Vestenický who scored against Manchester City FC in the quarter-finals.
Like actors, footballers following in the footsteps of famous fathers are known in Italy as 'figli d'arte' – and this Roma side certainly keeps things in the family. No1 Gabriele Marchegiani is the son of ex-Italy custodian Luca, Lorenzo Di Livio's father is UEFA Champions League winner Angelo, while Francesco Di Mariano is the nephew of Salvatore Schillaci, top scorer at the 1990 FIFA World Cup.
Marchegiani, a dependable modern goalkeeper who looks quite capable with his feet, is part of a strong spine together with centre-backs Elio Capradossi and Arturo Calabresi. That pair are key players for Italy Under-19s alongside central midfielder Lorenzo Pellegrini, the brains of the side and author of Roma's brilliant long-range winner against Manchester City in the last eight.
"These lads are giving us some joy, much more than anticipated," De Rossi said. "They are growing up fast, they play every game with great focus. They are a compact unit and you can see that on the pitch. We are going to Nyon to enjoy a wonderful experience and play all the cards we have."
3: It was third time lucky for Roma against City in the quarter-finals, the Giallorossi winning after losing twice to the English club in Group E.
Name: Alberto De Rossi
Date of birth: 09/09/57
Formerly a defender who played for several lower-league outfits in Italy, De Rossi is in his 12th season as coach of Roma's Primavera squad. "I don't have much interest in football at the top level," said the 57-year-old. "I prefer working with youngsters – that's my real passion. It's not a matter of lacking ambition; I just think my qualities are perfect for the job I'm doing now."
Francesco Totti and Daniele De Rossi are two of the most notable players to emerge from Roma's youth ranks, with Alessandro Florenzi and Verde two of the most recent. Only Atalanta BC have more academy graduates currently playing in Serie A than Roma's 21.
Route to the semi-finals
Round of 16
Ajax 0-0 Roma (Roma win 6-5 on penalties)
Roma 2-1 Manchester City