AS Roma coach Luciano Spalletti has no plans “to cage” Champions League top scorer Cristiano Ronaldo when the Italian club takes on Real Madrid in today’s last 16 meeting.
Ronaldo is the Champions League’s all-time record scorer with 88 goals, and leads this season’s tally with 11.
While the Portuguese striker will be fancied to extend his haul against Roma, whose 16 goals conceded in the group stage was more than any other side through to the last 16, Spalletti is making no special provisions for Ronaldo.
“Cristiano Ronaldo is one of the best players in the world, he can always make a difference. However, I’m not going to cage him, I’m not going to order three players to mark him,” the Roma coach told reporters yesterday.
“I don’t want to say that my players have one third of Ronaldo’s quality. If so, we would need 33 players to deal with him.”
Defender Kostas Manolas added: “If we feel we’re only one third of Ronaldo, then we’d be better off not playing at all. We’d already be beaten.”
While Real romped through their group by scoring 19 goals as they won five of their six fixtures to amass 16 points, Roma squeezed into the knockout rounds with just six points after winning only one match.
Despite their poor showing, Spalletti refused to accept that Roma are outsiders.
“I don’t think there’s a favourite,” he said. “We’ve got a 50 percent chance of going through.”
Spalletti has overseen a mini revival at Roma since replacing Rudi Garcia as coach on January 14, winning four league games and losing only once.
“I’m very optimistic, as I’ve seen my players improving all the time,” he said. “I wouldn’t be amazed if it was my team who went through.”