Champions League

Roma's injuries woes for CL

2009-03-10 16:37
Francesco Totti

Rome - AS Roma is decimated by injuries and suspensions entering its return match with Arsenal in the Champions League on Wednesday.

The Giallorossi need to overturn a 1-0 first-leg deficit but might not have the manpower necessary for the task.

While captain Francesco Totti will likely play despite a bad right knee, key midfielder Daniele De Rossi is suspended, Simone Perrotta is out with a hip injury, Cicinho underwent knee surgery Monday and fellow right back Christian Panucci can't step in as a replacement.

Panucci was removed from Roma's list of eligible players after clashing with the club and coach Luciano Spalletti over playing time.

"There's not many of us left, but whoever plays you can count on them giving 100 percent," said forward Mirko Vucinic, who scored the equalizer in a 1-1 draw with Udinese on Saturday.

Vucinic will likely pair with Totti in attack, with Alberto Aquilani in the playmaker position despite lingering ankle pain.

Italy's Under-21 captain Marco Motta, who has impressed since arriving on loan from Udinese, should get the nod at right back.

Teenage striker Theo Walcott has returned for Arsenal, coming on as a second-half substitute in Sunday's 3-0 FA Cup win over Burnley - his first appearance since dislocating his shoulder nearly four months ago.

"Overall it feels fine. I still haven't experienced getting clattered yet so that's the next test," said Walcott, adding that he'd be happy to come off the bench again.

In the first leg, Robin van Persie scored a first-half penalty for Arsenal after he had been tripped by Roma defender Philippe Mexes. Van Persie figures to again partner Nicklas Bendtner, who squandered two scoring opportunities in north London two weeks ago.

"We need to go there and play our game. It is very important for us to focus on scoring and going forward," Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger said. "Roma are a very good team offensively, so if we allow them to spend 90 percent of the time doing what they like to do, we will expose ourselves.

"So let's go there and focus on dictating the game. It is part of the personality of the team, so let's show that."

Arsenal has been successful in its last four visits to Italy, beating Roma 3-1 in 2002-03, routing Inter Milan 5-1 in the 2003-04 group stage and holding Juventus to a 0-0 draw to advance to the 2005-06 quarterfinals.

Arsenal visited AC Milan in the first knockout round last year following a 0-0 home draw, and departed the San Siro with a 2-0 victory thanks to late goals from Cesc Fabregas and Emmanuel Adebayor.

Fabregas has been out since December with a knee injury.

Defender Kolo Toure will return for Arsenal after a calf problem and midfielders Samir Nasri and Denilson are also back after being rested against Burnley.

Defender Mikael Silvestre is still recovering from a calf injury and Adebayor is nursing a hamstring problem.

Roma midfielder David Pizarro was injured in the match against Udinese but may be forced to take a spot on the bench, as could forward Jeremy Menez, who has been bothered by a thigh problem.

Totti and Pizarro were both included in Roma's squad Tuesday, as was Mexes despite a fever.

De Rossi's absence could prove the most troublesome. The Italian midfielder is the only member of Roma's squad besides goalkeeper Alexander Doni to have played every minute of all seven Champions League games this season.

"It will be key not to hurry because then we would run the risk of allowing a goal on a counterattack," Mexes said. "We've got to play like we know how and then the goal will come calmly. It all depends on us. If we're 100 percent we're better than them and we've got to realize that. We can advance."

Roma has bounced back from a first-leg away defeat only six times in 16 attempts in Europe. One of the club's most memorable comebacks came in the 1984 semifinals, when the Giallorossi overturned a 2-0 first-leg deficit against Scotland's Dundee United with a 3-0 triumph.

Roma's reward then was a place in the final at its own Stadio Olimpico, which will also host this season's championship match on May 27.

"Everyone would like to play in the final at Olimpico, and it's a huge opportunity for us," said defender John Arne Riise, who knows Arsenal well after spending the past seven seasons with Liverpool. "It's going to be tough, but we've got to believe in ourselves."

Elimination could put pressure on Roma to fire Spalletti.

"If after four years together one game determines my future, then that means we haven't really gotten to know each other and we've given little to the cause," the coach said.



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