Roma boss Luciano Spalletti says the strength of Ligue 1 means it will be impossible to take Lyon by surprise in Thursday’s Europa League last-16 tie at Parc OL.
The tie of the round sees two of the favourites for the competition do battle, with the first leg in France coming after Spalletti’s men suffered consecutive defeats at the hands of Lazio and Napoli, damaging their Coppa Italia and Serie A hopes respectively.
The Roma head coach admits those losses have hurt his players and knows the big challenge facing his team against Lyon, who sit fourth in a competitive Ligue 1 having beaten AZ 11-2 on aggregate to reach this stage.
“It will be a difficult game as the competitiveness of the French league has increased,” said Spalletti.
“You cannot compare it to the past when there was only Lyon. Now there is also Monaco, Paris Saint-Germain and Nice. Before there was a chance to surprise them, now they are accustomed to playing big matches.
“These are the kind of games you play knowing that there is a return leg. You play 180 minutes.
“Of course doing well away from home brings an important advantage, so you have to try and play the game, all the while paying attention to the home leg.
“We will play the game to try and win it, but we want to maintain balance. They have unquestionable quality and played two very good games [in the Champions League] against Juventus.
“So it will be crucial not to be too open because of the pace they have. If we leave big gaps, Alexandre Lacazette knows how to exploit them with the qualities he has.”
Simple rule of the torello: If the total reaches 20, it’s press-ups for the defenders!
And Kostas will make sure you do them! pic.twitter.com/2ZA0sldaog
— AS Roma English (@ASRomaEN) March 8, 2017
Spalletti added: “We have played against two strong teams [Lazio and Napoli], maybe getting some things wrong, but in both cases we were in the game.
“Those were two defeats which hurt, but we go forward with the knowledge that everything is in our hands. There are a lot of games and I trust the capacity of my players.
“There are complications to overcome, but we are a strong team which finds solutions even in difficult times.”