MANCHESTER: AS Roma coach Paulo Fonseca (pix) got the inside lane over Manchester United by former players Chris Smalling and Henrikh Mkhitaryan ahead of their Europa League semi-final first leg at Old Trafford on Thursday.
Defender Smalling spent 10 years at United before signing for Roma last year following a successful loan, while Armenian Mkhitaryan left Manchester for Arsenal in 2018 before heading to the Italian capital.
“This game is against a great team, perhaps the favorites to win the competition,” Fonseca said at a press conference on Wednesday.
“We prepared well for the match. I spoke to the two of them who have played here and who have experience at the moment of the competition. We know it will be difficult, we respect United but we have our ambitions.
“We don’t always reach a semi-final, we understand the importance of the moment. We’ve seen our fans and it’s important to feel that support. We want to fight for them and for the club. “
Smalling injured his knee in early March which kept him from playing until last weekend. Roma struggled in the Englishman’s absence, winning one of their last seven league games to drop to seventh place in the Serie A table.
Back in the squad, Smalling hopes he can help improve his team’s fortunes in a game that will be of added significance to him.
“It will be disappointing not to have a full house and have all of my friends and family watch the two clubs that have been a big part of my career,” Smalling said.
“It’s very rare that you play against a team where you know all the players, and in such a big game too. It has all the ingredients to be special.
“I’ve missed a lot of games this season (due to injury) and that’s unusual for me. But I feel good and I am ready to contribute. We know the importance of tomorrow. “- Reuters