Spalletti bullish despite Totti blow

Roma coach Luciano Spalletti is confident his side can overcome the absence of Francesco Totti and beat a Manchester United side he rates as the “best in the world”.

Roma coach Luciano Spalletti is confident his side can overcome the absence of Francesco Totti and beat a Manchester United side he rates as the “best in the world”.

The Giallorossi take on United at the Stadio Olimpico on Tuesday night in the first leg of their Champions League quarter-final tie without skipper Totti, who has been ruled out due to a thigh injury.

Spalletti believes his Serie A high-flyers have enough quality, however, to beat the Premier League leaders without their talisman.

“Totti is Totti,” he said. “But a team that is not able to play without a player does not have the right mentality.

“To have reached this stage of the competition means we have a strong team even without Totti.

“I have a lot of confidence in my players who I am sure will take on more responsibility as they have done in the past when we have played without Totti.”

Mirko Vucinic will lead the attack in Totti’s absence and Spalletti knows the Montenegrin forward will be up to the task.

“We are all ready, including Vucinic,” he said. “Vucinic has helped us win games and I am sure he is determined and ready.”

Although bullish about his team’s chances, Spalletti is aware of United’s quality, shown once more in their 4-0 thrashing of Aston Villa on Saturday.

“Manchester United are the strongest team in the world,” he added.

“They have players that give their all whether in attack or in defence.

“It’s difficult to stop a player like Cristiano Ronaldo because he is very strong, a very complete player and one of the best around. But we have been able to beat Manchester before and we will try to do the same thing.

“The important thing is that we show balance at all times.”

Spalletti believes United will face a “more mature” Roma at the Olimpico.

United knocked the Giallorossi out at the same stage last season thanks to a 7-1 hammering at Old Trafford.

And even though the teams met again in this year’s group stages – Sir Alex Ferguson’s side winning 1-0 at home and securing a 1-1 draw in Rome – the memory of the mauling in Manchester remains.

Spalletti said: “This is a more mature Roma. Our 7-1 defeat in Manchester helped the team mature and grow from a mental standpoint.

“Too many of us remember the 7-1 defeat and not the 2-1 triumph in the opening leg last season.

“Earlier this campaign, I think my team showed in England its true colours despite a 1-0 loss.

“We know the importance of the opening leg but we will not rule out our chances at Old Trafford. I am confident my team can progress and can play well both in Rome and in Manchester.”

Spalletti is hopeful there will be no repeat of the violence which marred the game in the Italian capital last year.

“I have confidence that our fans, who love the sport, will show the values of sport on Tuesday,” he said.

“I hope the behaviour will be much better than in previous encounters.”

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