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Need to Know: Di Francesco's key pre-AC Milan comments

Eusebio Di Francesco held his pre-match press conference on Saturday to preview the weekend's big Serie A clash against AC Milan.

The game against the resurgent Rossoneri gets underway at the Stadio Olimpico at 20:45 CET on Sunday.

We've rounded up the key comments from the boss ahead of the clash - as he outlined his respect for the current Milan side, discussed the fallout to Wednesday's Champions League defeat against Shakhtar Donetsk and reflected on Radja Nainggolan's current form...

On entering an important stage of the season...
"This is always a crucial stage of the season. Now we have fewer games to play, there is less margin for error. We need to fight hard for third place and try to advance in the Champions League against Shakhtar. This is a crucial period for us."

On Gennaro Gattuso's Milan side...
"Milan have a great team and squad. Gennaro Gattuso has managed to make the most of the qualities his team has. They play good football and are well organised. The 4-3-3 set-up brings the best out of his players - Rino is doing a really good job. So well done to him."

On the reaction to the Shakhtar Donetsk defeat...
"I'd like to clear things up following what's been said. I didn't speak to the team or the club's hierarchy straight after the game. I didn't speak to the team the next day, either. I wanted to go over things with a calm mind and not in the heat of the moment. I spoke with the team yesterday and tried to transmit the message that we can get through, as the first 50 minutes showed. We need to switch back to the league campaign with purpose, trying to show consistency in every game. Any personal discussions remain as such."

On Radja Nainggolan...
"It's not an issue of systems or formations, but mental condition. Radja Nainggolan needs to find strength and conviction, regardless of the system we're using. I want what's best for Roma, not individual players. I am the coach of this club, where the most important thing is the team and not the individual - it's about putting in good team performances. Whether we play 4-3-3 or 4-2-3-1, the key is interpretation.

"I'm sure we'll see the Nainggolan we know once again, whether he's scoring or not, in his performances. He had a small calf problem but he's over that. His display against Shakhtar was one of his best from a physical standpoint. He's improving, just as the rest of the team is."

On the formation and finding consistency...
"The players' qualities are what under-pin the formation. We could go back to playing 4-3-3 - the team needs to be able to shift as we go. It's how you deal with moments in a game that counts. What annoyed me in Kharkiv was the lack of intensity in the second half - it wasn't how we prepared the game.

"I always want to see consistency from my players and it's something that we need to improve on. You need constant focus and application, and that's what yielded the first goal. As soon as that dropped off, we suffered. Focus is at the heart of consistency - it's an unconscious thing. We can lick our wounds and learn our lesson."

On the difficulty of managing Roma...
"It's never easy to be the coach of a top side and I was aware of that. There's great joy to be had but there are also difficulties along the way. What gets to me is when people jump to conclusions too early. Let's get to the end of the season. Having many different coaches will have had a slightly negative effect, but - I'll say it again - I'm really happy to be here for this challenge, to be myself both inside and outside the dressing room. I'll keep going this way, with my strengths and weaknesses."

On leaving El Shaarawy out against Shakhtar...
"The physical and mental condition of a player counts more than their pedigree. Stephan is one of the players that helped bring us to this stage of the competition, but I didn't think he was absolutely up for the game, from a physical or mental point of view. I had to make a choice in that area of the pitch - Patrik Schick can decide games in a flash, while Gregoire Defrel is more of a wildcard. It was a tough decision for me.

"I spoke to Stephan and he's a really intelligent guy. I'm absolutely certain he'll come back and show his worth to the team. I don't like messing players around, but it was a football decision."
Source: As Roma
Saturday February 24, 2018
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