When the Champions League groups were drawn in August, most experts agreed that AS Roma had a good chance of advancing to the Round of 16 out of Group E. But the majority believed that the best bets for first and second place in the group should have been placed on German champions Bayern Munich and the English title holders Manchester City.
While Bayern have expectedly walked away with the group, Manchester City have stumbled, thus leaving the door open for Roma to advance to the next round of the European tournament. Even Roma manager Rudi Garcia concedes that his side are lucky to still have a chance at advancement after earning only five points in five matches.
The 50-year-old tactician directed AS Roma back into the Champions League following a three-year absence from the competition. The Italians returned to the European tournament with a rousing 5-1 victory over CSKA Moscow at the Stadio Olimpico. The festive events of that night were marred by crowd violence that led to both clubs being sanctioned by UEFA.
But prior to those unfortunate moments, the stadium in Rome was alive and raucous. It can be expected that the activity and volume at the iconic Italian arena will be increased by ten-fold this evening.
Since either City or Roma could be knocked out of the competition, Garcia believes that tonight’s match will have every appearance of a cup final. And the manager says his side are prepared for a what will be a historic night in Rome.
“In normal circumstances, we would be out [with five points from five games], but we are here to get a historic result,” Garcia said in his pre-match press conference.
“Like I said before the CSKA match, we have to enjoy the game and do the best we can. It would be amazing if we won. We want to go through. We have to be focused on the aim.”
“It’s a difficult game but I’m quietly confident.”
Garcia called for his team to focus on the moment and not be distracted by the magnitude of the match.
“The fact that we are still in the race means that we have quality. Credit to us that we still have a chance to play this cup final in front of our fans at a passionate Olimpico.”
“We have to use our heads, not just our hearts. I think it will be a tactical game. I coach this team every day and I know what they can do.”
“When the draw put us in the most difficult group, few people would have imagined we would be here with something to play for.”
“We played very well in Manchester, but this is a different game. City are in good form, but we are at home. We are confident. This is the last game of the group stage, so it is just like a final for both teams.”
Programming note: AS Roma v. Manchester City will be shown LIVE on FOX Sports 1 at 2:45pm EST on Wednesday.
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