AS Roma will be looking to make it third time lucky when they visit England for the first leg of their first knockout round tie against Arsenal FC.
• Luciano Spalletti's side saw their UEFA Champions League hopes founder on English soil in the two previous campaigns – with successive quarter-final losses to Manchester United FC – but they will seek a change of fortune against the Gunners and can draw confidence from the fact they pipped another London club, Chelsea FC, to first place in their section in the group stage.
• Roma advanced to the last 16 for the third consecutive campaign as winners of Group A with a record of W4 D0 L2. Although they lost 1-0 at Chelsea, they took maximum points from their two other away fixtures at FC Girondins de Bordeaux and CFR 1907 Cluj with two 3-1 wins.
• Arsenal, for their part, finished second behind FC Porto in Group G with a record of W3 D2 L1. Yet Arsène Wenger's men are unlikely to enter the tie with any sense of inferiority given their 22-match unbeaten run at home in the UEFA Champions League – a sequence that includes seven victories and five draws at the Arsenal Stadium, their home since 2006/07.
• That record may make worrying reading for fans of a Roma side who have suffered five consecutive defeats on English soil over the past four seasons.
• Overall, the Giallorossi have registered just one win and eight reverses in 12 matches in England, although they did emerge with a 1-1 draw from their one previous visit to north London to face Arsenal in the second group stage of the 2002/03 UEFA Champions League. That sole victory came at Liverpool FC in the UEFA Cup fourth round second leg on 22 February 2001, but was not enough to keep Roma in the competition after a 2-0 defeat at home.
• An Antonio Cassano strike in first-half stoppage time earned Roma a share of the spoils that evening at Highbury, after Patrick Vieira's 12th-minute header for the hosts.
• The full lineups for that fixture on 11 March 2003 were:
Arsenal: David Seaman, Lauren (Nwankwo Kanu), Martin Keown, Pascal Cygan, Giovanni van Bronckhorst, Sylvain Wiltord (Fredrik Ljungberg), Gilberto Silva, Patrick Vieira, Robert Pirès, Dennis Bergkamp (Francis Jeffers), Thierry Henry.
Roma: Ivan Pelizzoli, Christian Panucci, Aldair, Walter Samuel, Vincent Candela, Cafu, Emerson, Damiano Tommasi, Francisco Lima, Francesco Totti, Antonio Cassano (Vincenzo Montella).
• Arsenal had opened that phase of the 2002/03 competition by beating Roma 3-1 at the Stadio Olimpico through a Thierry Henry hat-trick, yet neither they nor Fabio Capello's Roma side managed to make it through to the last eight.
• Arsenal's home record against Italian opposition is W5 D4 L2. Moreover, they have an impressive record of five successes in six previous two-legged encounters against Serie A sides, including last season's 2-0 aggregate triumph against AC Milan at this stage of the UEFA Champions League.
• The Gunners' most famous victory against an Italian outfit came when they defeated Parma FC 1-0 in the final of the 1993/94 UEFA Cup Winners' Cup. However, they lost the following season's UEFA Super Cup 2-0 on aggregate to Milan.
• Roma have won three and lost five of their previous eight two-legged ties against English teams.
• Nobody associated with the Giallorossi will want reminding of their 7-1 defeat by Manchester United in the 2006/07 UEFA Champions League quarter-final at Old Trafford, and they also lost twice at the same ground last season, going down 1-0 in the group stage and again in the last eight.
• Roma may draw some encouragement from their most recent match against Premier League opposition – their 3-1 defeat of Chelsea at the Stadio Olimpico on 4 November.
• As coach of AS Monaco FC, Wenger got the better of Roma in the quarter-finals of the 1991/92 UEFA Cup Winners' Cup, his team prevailing 1-0 at home after a stalemate in the Italian capital. Monaco went on to reach the final where they lost to Werder Bremen.
• That was Wenger's only success against Serie A opposition during his time at Monaco, with whom he suffered semi-final defeats against UC Sampdoria in the 1989/90 UEFA Cup Winners' Cup and Milan in the 1993/94 UEFA Champions League.
• Arsenal defender Mikaël Silvestre was in the Manchester United side that defeated Roma 1-0 in the second leg of their 2007/08 quarter-final at Old Trafford.
• Roma's Norway left-back John Arne Riise appeared as a late substitute in former club Liverpool FC's 4-2 defeat of Arsenal in last season's UEFA Champions League quarter-final second leg.
• Overall Riise spent seven seasons with Liverpool prior to moving to Rome last summer. He made 17 appearances and scored two goals against Arsenal, with Liverpool winning four of those games (none in London) and losing eight.
• Roma defender Philippe Mèxes appeared in the AJ Auxerre side that won 2-1 at Arsenal in the first group stage of the 2002/03 UEFA Champions League, albeit after a 1-0 home reverse against Wenger's team.
• Roma's long-serving forward Vincenzo Montella scored five goals for Fulham FC during a loan spell with the London club during the second half of the 2006/07 season.
• Roma midfielder Simone Perrotta was born to Italian parents in the town of Ashton-under-Lyme in Great Manchester, the birthplace of England's 1966 FIFA World Cup hero Sir Geoff Hurst.
• The second leg will take place at the Stadio Olimpico on 11 March.
Wenger - Totti the talisman can be 'deadly'
By Richard Clarke
Francesco Totti is Roma.
He has spent 16 years in the first team for the Giallorossi amassing 528 games and 213 goals. The 32-year-old is their record-scorer, their most-capped player and, according to Arsène Wenger, will be their “most dangerous provider” when the Italian side visit Emirates Stadium in the Champions League Knockout Round first leg on Tuesday.
Of course Arsenal fans should be Europe’s least ageist football fans when it comes to forward players. The powers of striker Dennis Bergkamp scarcely waned before he retired in 2006 at the age of 37. However while the Dutchman started off as a striker and moved back as his career went on, Totti has successfully made the opposite move in recent years.
It is a much harder trick to pull off and, for Wenger, it is a measure of his greatness.
“Totti is a top, top class player,” said Wenger. “He is typical of the Roman game and I’m sure he will never move outside of Roma.
“He used to play in behind the strikers and then one day they had no central striker so they played him up front and won game after game. He suddenly became the topscorer in Italy as a central striker. That means this guy has absolutely everything.
“He has a fantastic protection of the ball, he has a quick turn and then he has a very good pass in the final third of the pitch. He can be deadly with every single pass.
“He will certainly be the most dangerous provider in the final third for them in this game. He is not the only player who can be dangerous but he can open the defence with any pass at any moment of the day if you give him the freedom.”
So, surely, a major task of the night will be to stop him enjoying that liberty. However, it is not Wenger’s way to employ a man-marker.
“Not really no,” agreed the manager. “But you know that Totti will be the anchor man of every single pass that comes out through the back.
“So that gives you two options - either drop off completely or you try to get in front of him before he gets the ball. Now, we do not want Totti to get on the ball. We need to get in front of him, so he will not go behind us.
“But there is a way to win the ball in midfield and that will be very important to us in this game.”
[Tuesday, February 24, 2009]
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