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Dzeko fired up for decisive run to the end of the season

Edin Dzeko feels Wednesday's clash with Shakhtar Donetsk will mark the start of an important three-month run to the end of the season for the Giallorossi.

With Roma looking to advance as far as possible in the Champions League this season, and also book their place in next season's competition by finishing in the top four in Serie A, Dzeko knows almost every game from now until the end of the season will be vital.

And, after three wins in a row prior to the trip to Kharkiv, Dzeko hopes Eusebio Di Francesco's side are arriving in good form.

"The coach has changed the formation and this has helped us," Dzeko told the club's match programme. "In the last three games Cengiz has scored four goals, which has really made the difference."

"But we have the ability to still improve a lot more. We have had to wait three months for the Champions League to return and, in this competition, you absolutely have to be at your best in every way, if you want to go any further."

He added: "We have to be aware that we can still improve - we can't feel content, three wins in a row isn't enough. We have other sides close to us in the league, just a few points behind, so we can't afford to lose. Physically we are doing well - I feel good - and we hope the last three months of the season will be successful."

How do you feel ahead of the return of the Champions League?

"Good - we have the confidence of three straight wins behind us, so the team is feeling good and we are finding things better with a new shape. Shakhtar are a very strong side technically, but they have also played only once since their winter break. Because of this we might be a bit further along with our preparations. We have to give everything."

What is the difference with the change in shape?

"With the 4-2-3-1, Radja is a bit closer to me and we play with just two midfielders. We have got results in the last few weeks, and it's clear that we've changed things a bit. I don't want to say that we played badly with the 4-3-3, but we did have a difficult spell. That led to a change, now we have started winning and again and we all hope we continue like that because we have some big games coming up."

Shakhtar played Napoli earlier in the competition, so they know a bit about playing Italian sides...

"The beat Napoli at home, lost to them away from home and ultimately finished second in the group. They are very good technically and have some quick attacking players. Shakhtar, along with Liverpool [and Wigan Athletic], are the only teams who have beaten Manchester City this season - who at the moment might be the strongest side in Europe. Because of this we cannot take anything for granted, and give everything in both legs. The tie will be decided over 180 minutes, not just 90, so we must deliver in both games."

Is playing away from home first an advantage?

"I don't know, perhaps sometimes it is better to play the first leg at home, although recently we have been a bit more solid at the Olimpico. We have to try and get a result at their place and then think about the return leg."

You, Daniele De Rossi and Aleksandar Kolarov have a lot of Champions League experience. What value does that value have in this competition, especially once you reach the knockout stages?

"As I already said, we can't just think about the 90 minutes in Kharkiv - the tie will be decided over two legs. We have players with a lot of European experience - the guys you mention and others who have played for their national teams too. We know what we have to do."

Reaching the quarter-finals isn't something that happens all the time at Roma. In the changing room is there a feeling that you could achieve something big?

"We did well in the group stage, no-one thought that we could beat Chelsea or knock out Atletico Madrid. It's something to be proud of that we have already done well in Europe, but we can't be content. This is a chance for everyone - players, the staff, the fans - to go even further. And we'll give it everything."

How do you reflect on your season up to now?

"I have scored fewer goals than last season, but for me the most important thing is always the team. If I score a goal and we lose, as happened against Atalanta, the goal means nothing to me. When we win I am happy, although I always want to score goals if I can.

"Now we have some tough games, three months of big games. The goals will come, but the most important thing is that the team picks up a lot of points."

Fans are still yet to see you and Patrik Schick on the pitch together. What have you made of him so far?

"We need to give Schick time; he's a young player but a very talented one. If he has a bad game, it doesn't mean much. I remember when I was a young player like him that I found it tough to find consistency. So if he has a bad game it becomes harder if you don't help him. He's a talented player that can make a big contribution for Roma now and in the future."
Source: AS Roma
Tuesday February 20, 2018
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