LIVERPOOL, England (Reuters) - AS Roma coach Eusebio Di Francesco says his side won’t sit back against Liverpool at Anfield in Tuesday’s Champions League semi-final, first leg.
The Italian said he is well aware of the Merseyside club’s ability to hit teams with swift balls over the top for their attacking trio to exploit but wants his side to keep a tight, compressed formation.
“We aren’t going to sit deep. They have to do well to force us deep. The decisive thing will be for us to stay compact,” said Di Francesco, a former Roma midfielder in his first season as coach of the club.
Much attention in the build-up to the game has inevitably focused on Liverpool striker Mohamed Salah who moved to Anfield from Roma in June. However, Di Francesco said it would be a mistake for him or his team to over-focus on the Egyptian.
“We can’t focus on a single player. Liverpool are not just Salah, the front-three combine really well together and that’s not an insignificant factor,” he said referring to Roberto Firmino and Sadio Mane.
“So we haven’t prepared this game with one player in mind. When preparing the game, of course we have to be aware of their strongest players, but we’re not targeting a single one,” he added.
Di Francesco said he has yet to decide whether Turkish forward Cengiz Under or Czech Patrik Schick will partner Edin Dzeko in attack saying they both had a “50 percent” chance of starting.
Anfield’s intimidating atmosphere on European nights has helped Juergen Klopp’s side this season, particularly in their 3-0 win over Manchester City in their quarter-final first leg.
Di Francesco believed, though, that could be countered with the right mentality from his team who knocked out five-times champions Barcelona in the previous round.
“Anfield is incredible. The beauty of English stadiums is amazing. In Italy we’re not used to having the fans right behind us in this way. Liverpool will have the fans on their side, but our away fans will support us.
“We need to play as a team more than ever. Liverpool are different to Barcelona in terms of pace and we need to play well to win and have even more of a team-mentality. We want to make the most of Liverpool’s possible weaknesses,” he said.
Reporting by Simon Evans; Editing by Christian Radnedge