Struggling AS Roma should be boosted by the return of captain and talisman Francesco Totti for the visit of Romanians Cluj in the UEFA Champions League on Tuesday.
Totti has been badly missed in a disastrous start to the season for the Italian Cup holders, who followed up an opening day 1-1 draw at home to 10-man Napoli by losing 3-1 at Palermo on Saturday. Coach Luciano Spalletti had hoped Totti would be fit for the trip to Sicily, but instead he has had to settle for the mercurial striker's return for the Group A clash at the Stadio Olimpico.
Totti had been scheduled to make his comeback from injury at Palermo, but Spalletti didn't want to take a risk on the veteran forward and preferred to hold him back a few days. "I'm more worried about him than the others (players carrying injuries) because he has something more than them," Spalletti had said of his star man before the trip to Sicily.
But despite the Romans' poor start, Spalletti believes they will quickly bounce back. "," he said.
Totti is not the only injury worry for Roma as centre-back pair Juan and Philippe Mexes are both doubtful for the game. Juan seems to have more chance of recovering from a groin problem, having sat out the Palermo match, but Mexes hurt his knee on Saturday and is rated by the Gazzetta dello Sport as having less than a 50-50 chance of playing against the Romanians.
Italy international midfielder Simone Perrotta is also a doubt with an Achilles injury, while Montenegro forward Mirko Vucinic is still suffering from an ongoing back problem.
But even putting their injury difficulties aside, Spalletti knows that Roma cannot afford to take Cluj lightly. "I have seen some of Cluj's matches and they play fantastic football," the 49-year-old told the official UEFA website. "Of course we should win, but we have to play well and we have to focus on bringing all our qualities onto the pitch.
"When you play these teams who are not very well known at European level, players can think it's not going to be difficult, but it's not like that. I hope my players don't make this mistake because all matches are very hard."
Roma have a good record in the Champions League, reaching the last eight in the last two seasons and losing to Manchester United on both occasions. The last eight is the minimum requirement Spalletti has set for his team this time around.
"We should definitely look to do no worse than last time, and always try to improve," he said. "This is definitely a group with hidden man-traps. But we know when we play in a huge competition like this, that we need the mental power, personality and confidence to show our quality on the pitch.
"I believe Roma have the ability to take on all these teams and to get through this group." It certainly won't be an easy task with last year's runners-up Chelsea and French runners-up Bordeaux also in the group.