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Roma Coach Believes in Miracle over Barca

first_imgRoma 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 this evening.“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.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 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.From a possible sacrifice for his cash-strapped club in January, Edin Dzeko again proved his worth to Roma with his 19th goal of the season in the first leg.After the 32-year-old’s proposed move to Chelsea fell through in the winter transfer window, Dzeko helped the club’s balance sheet by securing Roma’s place in the last eight of Europe’s lucrative elite competition.And the former Manchester City striker showed his class and his talents by getting a goal back against the Spanish league leaders.Andres Iniesta could be playing his final games for Barcelona as he has said he will make a decision on whether to accept an offer to move to China before the end of April.Iniesta, 33, penned a new contract at Camp Nou earlier this season but the terms of the deal allow him to leave at the end of each season.The midfielder, who remains an important part of Valverde’s side, has said: “I will decide before April 30. There are still a few weeks left. There are two options: stay at Barcelona or go to China.”Barcelona midfielder Sergio Busquets is still not fully fit as he comes back after breaking his toe against Chelsea last month with Philippe Coutinho not eligible to play and Lucas Digne injured. Roma’s Radja Nainggolan has recovered from injury while Di Francesco has said Turkish forward Cengiz Under is fit again and will feature in the second leg. “The home crowd can be our weapon,” warned Di Francesco.Share this:FacebookRedditTwitterPrintPinterestEmailWhatsAppSkypeLinkedInTumblrPocketTelegramlast_img read more

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It’s time for the annual crosstown showdown in LA

first_imgFor players, coaches and fans alike, the crosstown showdown between USC and UCLA is a long-awaited treat at the end of the season. With just two weeks left before bowl season, the No. 13 Trojans (7-3) will travel to the Rose Bowl in Pasadena to face the Bruins (4-6).Brian Chin | Daily TrojanBeat the Bruins · Junior wide receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster and the football team are traveling across town to take on UCLA. The Trojans have defeated the Bruins in 13 of their last 17 meetings, including last year’s 40-21 win.The teams have undergone quite different storylines as this season has progressed. Having won six straight, USC vaulted up in the College Football Rankings this week after defeating playoff contender then No. 4 Washington, but head coach Clay Helton has been working to keep his players focused on the task at hand this week.“We have a job to do,” Helton said. “That’s been the overriding emphasis each and every week: do our job, on this day, in this moment. And that’s what I’m going to keep selling.”The Bruins have struggled without their starting quarterback Josh Rosen, who was replaced by redshirt senior Mike Fafaul. The Bruins have relied heavily on their passing game as they are averaging just 87.2 rushing yards per game. Sophomore defensive end Porter Gustin emphasized the need to maintain that standard in this game.“We’ve talked all week about establishing that they’re not going to run the ball on us early,” Gustin said. “Making them one dimensional and getting after the quarterback, that’s a key for sure.”The Trojans will most likely be without junior defensive tackle Josh Fatu who is suffering from an ankle injury. The team expects to be at full strength on the offensive side of the field. The team is preparing for a Bruin defense that is extremely effective on third down.“Not only one of the best secondaries that we’ve faced, but also one of the defenses with the best third down efficiency,” Helton said. “They come in right at 32 percent, which is one of the top three in the league.”Combatting a staunch defense will be a Trojan offense that ranks second in the Pac-12 at third down efficiency, coming in at 46.2 percent, showing that the effort USC has put into third downs each week at practice has paid off.“That’s a key battle of keeping drives alive on the field,” Helton said.Redshirt freshman quarterback Sam Darnold has impressed the nation during his tenure as the starting quarterback.“Everyone is seeing touches and everyone is making plays,” junior wide receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster said.Darnold leads the nation in touchdown passes, completion percentage, yards per attempt and passing efficiency this season among freshman. He has thrown 22 scoring passes this year. Darnold is ranked fifth in the nation in ESPN’s Total QB Rating and is the highest rated freshman.Darnold has been able to spread the wealth among his receivers, not just targeting Smith-Schuster but also making names for wide receivers senior Darreus Rogers, sophomore Deontay Burnett and redshirt freshman tight end Daniel Imatorbhebhe.“Smooth is the right word to describe Tay (Deontay Burnett),” Darnold said. “Tay is just one of those players who knows how to get open and knows how to do his thing once the ball comes to him.”Helton hasn’t downplayed the rivalry aspect of this week, but has said several times that he is trying to keep his team as calm as they can be. Smith-Schuster said on Tuesday that the coaching staff talked to the team in order to help them refocus after the Washington win and to not get caught up in the hype of the rivalry.Last year, the Trojans won 40-21 at the Coliseum, but the year before suffered a defeat at the Rose Bowl, 38-20. The 2014 win is just the fourth win the Bruins have had in the last 17 meetings.“The more and more the day comes closer, you get more excited,” Smith-Schuster said. “It’s a big rivalry game and everyone is excited, but you just have to keep calm.”The Trojans need to win on Saturday to keep their hopes of a Pac-12 South title alive in addition to needing Utah and Colorado to each lose one of their remaining two games.“The one thing I’ve been proud of this team for the past six weeks is we haven’t been about the hype,” Helton said. “We say execution fuels emotion.”last_img read more

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