By Chris Harris
If you want to see a Roma fan's face drop, mention April 10, 2007.
That was the night when the Giallorossi went to Old Trafford with a 2-1 lead and a decent chance of progressing into the Semi-Finals of the Champions League. Manchester United promptly thumped them 7-1 and, frankly, it still hurts.
Roma are stronger now and, after a poor start to the season, have been picking off their rivals in Serie A. The Scudetto is beyond them but Roma's momentum could take them far in Europe. And claiming their first English scalp would be the perfect way to numb the memories of that nightmare in Manchester.
We spoke to Alessandro Austini of Il Tempo ahead of Roma's first leg against Arsenal at Emirates Stadium. Read on for an assessment of Roma's season, their key men, a familiar face in the Giallorossi attack and the Italians' tactical approach tonight.
THE STORY SO FAR
"They had a horrible beginning to the season and they lost eight games. The season changed after the match against Lazio; after that they had some victories and improved. They are now playing well and they have changed their tactical system and are now more defensive. And now Roma are close to the Champions League spots in Serie A."
THE ONES TO WATCH
"The most important player for Roma at the moment isn’t Francesco Totti, it is Daniele de Rossi. He is the key of the midfield; he’s a leader and is the captain of the future. I think he is the key of Rome. He is a midfielder but he gets in behind the defence. He has a good head, good in the tackle and is very strong. Roma is a team with many technical players but De Rossi adds some physical strength.
"This year Mirko Vucinic is doing well too and he scores a lot of goals. Before he came to Roma he was at Lecce where he scored about 20 goals in a season but then only scored twice in his first season in Rome. He had some problems here but this year he is arguably Roma’s best player."
THE ARSENAL CONNECTION
"Like the team, Julio Baptista had a bad start to the season but he scored against Lazio and his season changed after that match. Now it is going well for him. He is a physical player who offers something different to the other strikers. You can go three or four years without a goal but if you score against Lazio you’re a hero."
"I think they will take a defensive approach and they will be very happy if they don’t concede. At home Roma are much better than they are away so I think they will be very defensive and will remember the 7-1 defeat at Old Trafford a few years ago. That game hurt Roma a lot and it’s the worst game in their European history. The season was going well until then and it came as a surprise because Roma won the first leg. They thought they could go ahead but 7-1 was a terrible night for Roma and nobody has forgotten that.
"For Tuesday night Roma have lost Juan, the central defender, and they will have a great problem if he can’t play. He has travelled to London but it is unlikely that he’ll play. It’s a big problem because Christian Panucci is no longer registered in Europe. His replacement Souleymane Diamoutene, the Malian defender, is not very experienced."
IMPRESSIONS OF ARSENAL
"Roma think that Arsenal are easier to face than Manchester United or Chelsea. However they remembered what happened with AC Milan a year ago. There is great respect for the Arsenal team who have good young players. Spalletti says they are a model that every club should follow. There is big respect but they think that Roma can do it. As for me, I think all will be decided in Rome and I expect a very unpredictable match. This time is the best chance for Roma to win against an English team."