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Di Francesco believes defence will decide Napoli clash

Di Francesco's pre-Napoli press conference in full
Read everything the coach had to say ahead of Saturday's Serie A showdown with Napoli...

The game at the Stadio Olimpico gets underway at 20:45 CEST.

Will tomorrow's match determine who will be Juventus' main challengers?

"It will be a very important game regardless of how it finishes. It could establish Juventus' challengers or at least give one of the two sides a confidence boost."

It's your 10th meeting with Maurizio Sarri tomorrow. What will be different this time around?

"Better players give you a greater insight into a coach's work. Sarri is doing an excellent job and he's really developed as a coach over the last few years. He started out with a 4-4-2 and now he sets up with a 4-3-3 full of quality players."

What makes Edin Dzeko and Dries Mertens so special?

"They are two very different players. Mertens became a centre forward out of necessity and the ability of his coach who saw how he was developing. He'd never played there before in the past and he's an unusual centre forward in that you don't know where he'll pop up - he's always on the move.

"Dzeko is a big presence in the box but he's also good at operating between the lines. He's tall but he's very good technically and mobile. They could potentially play together but I hope tomorrow the bigger of the two comes out on top."

Will Kevin Strootman and Patrik Schick be fit?

"Neither of them will be in my squad. We'll assess Strootman for the Champions League game, whereas we mustn't rush Schick. He's almost wanted to force his way back at times but we can't afford to get things wrong. I'll only name him in my squad once he's able to manage a portion of a game."

Who stands to gain the most from this match?

"You don't gain anything by losing. There will be a slight psychological setback for the team that loses but there's still an awfully long way to go. The result is important but the performance is crucial. The team which plays better defensively tomorrow will come away with a big result. We must defend better than Napoli but as a team, not only the back four. Teamwork is what's required if you're to aim high."

Do you think Stephan El Shaarawy could have been managed better on international duty?

"There have definitely been some bad calls. We have an excellent relationship with the national team and I hope that doesn't happen again. It's a shame to see someone come back injured but there's no point causing a fuss. Clearly I expect everyone to be more careful next time."

Diego Perotti has said Napoli play better football than Juventus. Do you agree?

"I agree in terms of how pretty they are to watch. They're like a well-oiled machine but that doesn't necessarily equate to results and the mentality of a side like Juventus can make the difference. Napoli are among the favourites but, as ever, Juve are the team to beat."

Massimiliano Allegri has said that the team with the best defence will win the league. Do you agree?

"I've already said I think the team that defends better tomorrow will win the match. Having the best defence is not only down to defenders though. I agree with him and that's why I made the point about tomorrow's match. You have to defend in the opposition half too."

Will you ask Radja Nainggolan to keep Jorginho quiet?

"He can play anywhere and I assess things one game at a time. I can't tell you where I'll pick him tomorrow."

Are you better off picking a quick defence against Napoli or one that can build from the back?

"While it's important to pick your side with the opposition in mind - in this case small, technical players - I also have to check out how Federico Fazio's doing. I'll only see him for the first time today. I won't select my team based purely on Napoli but the run of matches we have coming up."

Would beating Napoli put Roma in the running for the Scudetto?

"It's nice to strive to keep improving. What matters most is believing in yourselves and keeping your feet on the ground. But I'd prefer to answer that one tomorrow if and when we win."

Had Roma kept hold of everyone, would they be in a similar position to Napoli?

"Lots of players have stayed at the club. The coach has changed and with it the philosophy and the way we work. Lest we forget, we struggled during pre-season but we've only lost one competitive game so far and we didn't deserve to. The players are getting to grips with the new way of working and their fitness levels are improving."

How's Rick Karsdorp?

"Karsdorp will definitely be in the squad. We'll see whether or not we can use him but he's only trained three times with me."

The stadium won't be full for tomorrow's big game. How do you explain that one?

"I think we'd be oversimplifying the issue by claiming it's just about Roma v Napoli. It's the same situation all over the country. Let's try and improve stadiums and accessibility. Unfortunately we're not used to looking at those who do things better than us. Talk is cheap. I'm disappointed about tomorrow. I got used to seeing a full ground with a great atmosphere but, as I said, it's not only tomorrow's match, it's the same all over Italy."
Source: As Roma
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