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Di Francesco likes Roma attitude before Liverpool clash

Milan (AFP) – Roma warmed up for next week’s Champions League clash with Liverpool by easing past SPAL 3-0 on Saturday to keep their push for elite European football next season on track.

Eusebio Di Francesco’s side have 67 points from 34 games — three ahead of city rivals Lazio who can pull level again when they host Sampdoria on Sunday.

“The performance was excellent,” said coach Eusebio Di Francesco. 

“The team’s attitude three days before such an important match with Liverpool is an important step in the right direction, I’m really happy with this performance today, I got important answers.

“This is a side that has great goals in its head, a team that looks at the present and not the future, and it’s a moment of great satisfaction for me.”

He added: “The only downside was that in the first half we could have scored more.

“Of course against Liverpool this precision and solidity we must have from the beginning.”

A Francesco Vicari own goal gave the Romans a first-half lead in Ferrara with Radja Nainggolan and Patrik Schick adding two more in an eight-minute spell in the second half.

SPAL fell to their first defeat in nine games leaving their top-flight survival increasingly in doubt as they sit just one point above the relegation zone. 

Di Francesco rotated his side ahead of Tuesday’s Champions League semi-final at Anfield with Argentinian left-back Jonathan Silva getting his first start since his January signing.

Roma’s top scorer Edin Dzeko stayed on the bench alongside captain Daniele De Rossi with the visitors missing three chances in the first half — Stephan El Shaarawy misfiring twice and Lorenzo Pellegrini also missing a third opportunity.

Pellegrini contributed to the opener, crossing a low ball into the area as Vicari turned into his own net when trying to anticipate Kevin Strootman in a scramble in front of goal.

But Nainggolan — wearing the captain’s armband and one of many Serie A players to smudge a red streak on his cheek in support of a campaign against violence against women — missed a chance for a second sending the ball into the side netting just before the break.

– Fiorentina lose ground –

But seven minutes into the second half the Belgian sent a diagonal half-volley into the bottom corner, with Pellegrini setting up Schick to head in the third on the hour mark.

It was the first goal for Czech forward Schick since he joined Roma on loan from Sampdoria last August.

“Finally, I’ve been waiting for too long,” said Schick whose season had been hampered by injuries.

“Now there’s Liverpool, we must prepare for that game and have the same attitude we did against Barcelona.”

Roma’s Champions League rivals Liverpool meanwhile were held 2-2 in Premier League action on Saturday.

“Liverpool are a side of great quality. The first leg is away from home and that can be an advantage, but also makes it very difficult to prepare tactically. 

“I know the starting eleven, it’s all planned, but I won’t tell you. I can say that Edin Dzeko will play.”

Fiorentina’s Europa League push took a knock with a second consecutive defeat, falling 1-0 at Sassuolo, who took a big step to ensuring their top flight survival.

The Tuscans three-point deficit on AC Milan in the sixth and final Europa League spot could be extended later Saturday with Milan playing Benevento.

Fiorentina lost Bryan Dabo after half an hour for a second bookable offence with Matteo Politano scoring his fifth goal in six games four minutes before the break to move Sassuolo away for the relegation zone.

Champions Juventus and second-placed Napoli go head-to-head Sunday in a clash which could decide the Serie A title.

Napoli have reduced the deficit to four points on Juventus with five games to play.

But history does not favour Maurizio Sarri’s side who have always lost in the Allianz Stadium.

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