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Roma’s Di Francesco hoping for Barca ‘miracle’

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Roma’s coach Eusebio Di Francesco (R) and midfielder from Belgium Radja Nainggolan give a press conference at the Olympic Stadium in Rome on April 9, 2018 on the eve of the UEFA Champions League quarterfinal return football match Roma. vs Barcelona. / AFP PHOTO / FILIPPO MONTEFORTE

Roma coach Eusebio Di Francesco has urged his side to believe in a “miracle” to overturn a 4-1 deficit against Barcelona and advance to the Champions League semifinals today.

“We have to believe in something important and go for it with great love and passion. They will play their best to confirm the result but we can also produce a miracle,” Di Francesco told a pre-match press conference.

“It’s difficult, but we have to believe. We stopped (Lionel) Messi (in the first leg) and we have to try to do it again tomorrow.”

Edin Dzeko scored a valuable away goal after own goals from Daniele De Rossi and Kostas Manolas in the Camp Nou, but the Italians need a remarkable comeback at the Stadio Olimpico to advance to final four for the first time since 1984.

Here are some talking points ahead of the quarterfinal second leg clash:

Messi hoping for more Roman heroics

Barcelona star Lionel Messi returns to the Stadio Olimpico where his stunning header sealed the Champions League title in 2009 against Manchester United.

The Argentine – back from a hamstring problem and subdued in the first leg – warmed up with a hat-trick in a 3-1 win over Leganes Saturday as Barcelona equalled the record longest unbeaten run in La Liga history.

“I don’t see it as being tied up in any way,” said Barcelona coach Ernesto Valverde ahead of the return.

Messi and teammate Andres Iniesta are poised for a milestone of 100 Champions League appearances together. Iniesta is a veteran of 129 Champions League games, and Messi, 124.

Roma struggling at home

Roma have slipped to fourth in Serie A after a 2-0 home defeat to Fiorentina, making it three games without a win, and a seventh home defeat.

Di Francesco’s side will be looking to avoid equalling the club’s record of eight home defeats in all competitions going back 70 years.

“Maybe Barcelona away are not the same team as at the Camp Nou, we will try to close down Messi wherever he is on the pitch,” said the Roma coach.

Roma have kept a clean sheet in all of their European games at home this season while the Catalan giants have struggled to get goals away in the Champions League, setting the scene for a low-key scoring affair in the Stadio Olimpico.


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