The Portuguese Paulo Fonseca, coach of Roma, assured this Wednesday that Manchester United, his rival this Thursday in the first leg of the Europa League semi-finals, is the “favorite to win” the competition, but stressed that this does not change “the ambitions” or the confidence of his players.
“We all know the importance of this match. Our fans cheered us on when we left (the sports center of) Trigoria, we want to fight for our city and our fans“Fonseca said at the press conference the day before.
“It is the match against the favorite to win this competition. I spoke with (English Chris) Smalling and (Armenian Henrikh) Mkhitaryan, who have experience having played here. We all know it will be difficult, we respect Manchester a lot, but we have our ambitions, “he continued.
Roma, seventh classified in Serie A, faces the Europa League with the obligation to win the trophy to get, in addition to their first continental cup, the ticket for the next Champions League.
In the Italian capital, everyone is clear about the importance of the Old Trafford duel and a thousand fans gathered this Wednesday in Trigoria to cheer on the players on his way out to England with chants and flares.
“Feeling the support of our fans is a motivation. We all know the importance of these semi-finals. The push of our fans helps a lot“Fonseca considered.
He also highlighted the weight and offensive speed that Manchester United has, but He was convinced that his players will know how to defend themselves with order.
“The United forward is very strong, fast, but we prepare the game well. It is very important to have Chris (Smaling, recovered from his injury) for this Thursday. I am confident, “he said.
Smalling “extra motivated” to return to Old Trafford
English Chris Smalling, Roma defender and former Manchester United player, did not hide this Wednesday that he would return to Old Trafford to play the first leg of the Europa League semifinals against the club in which he played for nine seasons is an “extra motivation” for him.
“100%, I'm extra motivated. It's a special match. I've been at Roma for almost two years now and I know how important it would be to win a trophy. There is no more important game than playing and I am happy to be in good shape“, said Smalling, who accompanied the Portuguese coach Paulo Fonseca in the press conference the day before.
The English defender played 323 games for Manchester United and expressed his “emotion” to return to what was his stadium, although he acknowledged that it is a “pity” that his relatives and former fans cannot be in the stands.
He did not hesitate to praise United's season, which is emerging as a great favorite to win this Europa League and is also second in the Premier League, behind Manchester City.
“They're having a great season. When (United's Norwegian manager Ole Gunnar) Solskjaer arrived I was injured, but then I played. We had honest conversations last summer (when he switched to Manchester for Roma). Now I am excited to play this game, “he said.
“I feel good. It is not a secret that I have missed many games this year, something I'm not used to, but I feel comfortable, “he added about his physical conditions.
He also thanked the Roma fans, which encouraged the players on Wednesday on their departure to England with chants and flares.
“We had our fans outside Trigoria (sports center), It is something that few clubs have. We hope to make them proud, “he assured.