Di Francesco urges Roma to ‘do the unthinkable’ and eliminate Barcelona
Roma are at a three-goal disadvantage but scored an away goal at the Nou Camp.
Eusebio Di Francesco has urged his Roma players to give their all as they attempt to “do the unthinkable” and eliminate the Barcelona “machine” from the Champions League.
Edin Dzeko’s late away goal in a 4-1 first-leg defeat at the Nou Camp could prove key as the Serie A club vie to reach the semi-finals at the expense of Lionel Messi, Luis Suarez and company.
Their preparation for Tuesday night’s showdown at the Stadio Olimpico was not ideal as they lost 2-0 at home to Fiorentina at the weekend, but head coach Di Francesco did manage to rest some key players.
Ahead of the return leg he also teased the return to contention of several wild-card options, including Cengiz Under, the young Turk whose scoring streak was interrupted by an injury last month.
Whoever plays, Di Francesco is demanding Barca are faced down with “passion, heart and belief”.
He said at a pre-match press conference: “We must always play at our best for this shirt, even more so in this game since we have to overturn the scoreline from the first leg.
“The crowd will be our 12th man, but it’s up to us to get them going.
“We’ll play our strongest line-up against Barcelona. We must play with passion, heart and belief right up until the final whistle if we want to do the unthinkable.
“We have a duty to give it everything.”
A 3-0 triumph would suffice for the Giallorossi, and they have already subjected a European giant to that treatment this season.
Chelsea arrived in Rome as the reigning English Premier League champions in October, but they lost badly.
“We have to believe we can pull off this feat,” added Di Francesco. “We must have the right attitude, like we did against Chelsea.
“We’re up against a machine, they’ve only lost once. Barca’s strength has been built over many years, it’s not happened overnight.
“(Patrik) Schick might play tomorrow, because he’s got an eye for goal. We’ll assess Cengiz (Under) today – if everything’s fine, he’ll be in the squad. (Diego) Perotti is definitely ruled out.
“We hope to have him back for the derby, but it’s a long shot.”
Barca goalkeeper Marc-Andre ter Stegen has no choice but to play a defensive role in the Eternal City.
But the German expects his team-mates to pursue the goal that will take away Roma’s leverage.
He said: “We have an advantage that we must defend. However, we will have to give them a good match to make progress in the Champions League. Roma have a lot of quality.
“We have a system that means we always have our best players available and that helps us in big matches.”