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Roma cannot hide from Europa League favourites tag, says Spalletti

Roma cannot hide from Europa League favourites tag, says Spalletti

Luciano Spalletti says Roma must not let themselves become overawed by their favourites tag when they face Villarreal in the Europa League last 32.

The Serie A title-chasers were named by Villarreal head coach Fran Escriba as one of the top candidates to lift the trophy in Solna this year, along with Manchester United.

Spalletti admits that his side have been handed a tough draw at this stage of the tournament and urged his players to play positively on Thursday in order to secure a first-leg advantage to take back to Stadio Olimpico.

"I think this match-up would have been more fitting later in the competition, given the calibre of the two sides," he told a news conference.

"It's a tough tie to come through because we are both good sides. We have to show that we are up to the task – we need to show what we are about and get the result.

"Nobody – not the coach and not the players – can hide. It is the same for their coach, he can't hide behind the weight of the name Roma. He replaced Marcelino and has his own responsibility. His club have shown their ambition by appointing him. 

"We had a good group phase and now we are up against a great team. Villarreal are strong and they could well play better against the big clubs than the smaller ones.

"They had a few injury issues recently but now they have Roberto Soldado back, among others."

Roma suffered a blow in training on Tuesday when Alessandro Florenzi twisted the same knee on which he had surgery for a torn ligament.

The Italy international is set for further tests on the damage on Friday but he will certainly miss the trip to Spain.

"He came into the dressing room and said he felt pain in his knee," Spalletti said. "He went to have some tests and there are risks that the sprain caused some problems.

"Florenzi is strong and he wanted to talk more about this game than himself, to get us motivated, but the doctor said they will need a much closer look at the problem."