ROME (Reuters) – AS Roma coach Eusebio Di Francesco said Saturday’s Serie A trip to Udinese is more important to his side than the upcoming fixtures against Real Madrid and Inter Milan.
The capital club host European champions Real in the Champions League on Tuesday before welcoming third-placed Inter to the Stadio Olimpico next Sunday in Serie A.
Yet Di Francesco picked out the visit to the Dacia Arena to face an Udinese side in 17th place in Serie A and being led by new coach Davide Nicola for the first time as the most crucial challenge of a busy week for his team.
“I think that of the three games against Udinese, Real Madrid and Inter, the next one is the most important,” he said.
“The players must understand that this match must be approached in the right way, having so many international players isn’t an excuse.
“We must go into this game knowing that it will be very tough physically.”
Kostas Manolas is not fit for the game as he recovers from an ankle knock, while Patrik Schick has earned a spot in the starting lineup again.
The 22-year-old striker scored his first goal of the season in a 4-1 win over Sampdoria before the international break and found the net again for the Czech Republic on Monday, scoring the winning goal in a 1-0 UEFA Nations League victory against Slovakia.
“Schick will play from the start tomorrow,” Di Francesco said.
“He is growing, there was a bit of a hazy period but a great desire to come out of it and I’m very happy about that.
“His goal and performances for the Czech Republic have given him confidence, the staff are collectively working on him but it’s also down to his attitude because a coach can do very little if on the other side the player doesn’t have the right attitude.
“His lob against Slovakia was made out to be the goal of the year. I told him that it was simply a nice goal, which he has in his DNA.”
Roma are sixth in Serie A with 19 points from 12 games, while Udinese have nine points, with only goal difference keeping them out of the relegation zone.
(Reporting by Toby Davis)