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Roma to banish Bayern blues against Barca?

Roma will be hoping to banish the spectre of a crushing Champions League defeat to Bayern Munich last season when they host defending champions Barcelona in their Group E opener on Wednesday.

Roma to banish Bayern blues against Barca?
AS Roma are hoping to make amends for last year's 7-1 defeat to Barcelona at the Stadio Olimpico on Wednesday. Photo: Filipo Monteforte/AFP

A humiliating 7-1 defeat to the Bundesliga giants on what was Roma's return to the competition after a three-year absence served as a harsh wake-up call as the Italians' crashed out of the competition at the group stages.

Having added strikers Edin Dzeko and Iago Falque, as well as several defenders during the summer, Roma coach Rudi Garcia now has the backbone of a squad that pundits feel has scudetto-winning credentials.

Domestically, Roma have avoided defeat so far, and beaten champions Juventus to boot, to sit two points behind Serie A leaders Inter Milan.

Yet Barcelona were virtually impervious when they humbled Juventus 3-1 in last season's Berlin final and, in a Group D that also includes Bayer Leverkusen and BATE Borisov, Luis Enrique's troops are fully expected to finish top of the pile.

Barcelona arrive in the Eternal City as favourites, especially after they dominated Roma 3-0 in a pre-season friendly when Neymar, Lionel Messi and Ivan Rakitic were all on target.

Giallorossi goalkeeper Wojciech Szczesny knows Barcelona's potency only too well, having been beaten twice by Messi, once from the penalty spot, when former club Arsenal lost 3-1 at the Camp Nou on their way to a 4-3 aggregate defeat in the 2010/11 round of 16.

But the Polish shot-stopper, whose strong performances so far have pushed Morgan De Sanctis down the pecking order, has sounded a note of defiance.

“We can't wait to come up against a fantastic side like Barcelona,” said Szczesny after Saturday's 2-0 win away to league new boys Frosinone.

“We already showed against Juventus we're confident when facing the best teams in Europe.”

Fans might be feeling confident but Roma's recent league win over the Italian champions must be seen in the light of Juve's current struggles that have seen them drop to 16th place with only one point from three league outings.

Less Impressive

Barcelona's recent record in the competition – they won four of six away games last season, scoring in every one – speaks for itself, although the Catalans' record against Italian teams is less impressive.

Barcelona have won just one of their last six matches in Italy, beating AC Milan 3-2 in the 2011/12 group stages, and won only six of their 20 away matches against Serie A sides.

“We've got a tough group, like most teams,” said Barca coach Enrique, who as coach of Roma in the 2011-2012 season led them to a seventh place finish.

Barca defender Javier Mascherano told UEFA.com he expects Roma to take the game to the reigning champions, although Barca would relish a team taking them on at what they do best.

“Roma play football. This sometimes works well for us, but they're a quality side and we know they're going to play their game from the off and fight for every ball,” said Mascherano.

“They are a side with tradition and, above all, we know how hard it is to go to Italy and play. Tactically, they're teams that defend well and it's not easy to score against them. It will be a difficult game for us.”

Despite making his league debut this season last weekend, Roma captain Francesco Totti is set to start on the bench after Juan Iturbe impressed on his second-half appearance against Frosinone.

Barcelona welcome defender Gerard Pique back to the fold after he missed their first three La Liga games through suspension, while Enrique has left Dani Alves off his 20-man travelling party.

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FOOTBALL

Euro 2020: Concern about virus spread after Italy players’ ‘unauthorised’ victory parade through Rome

Italy’s national football team reportedly insisted on taking an open-top bus tour through Rome to show off their European Championship trophy to crowds of fans - despite city authorities forbidding it amid concern about the spread of coronavirus.

Euro 2020: Concern about virus spread after Italy players' ‘unauthorised’ victory parade through Rome
Photo: Tiziana Fabi/AFP

The team’s bus parade through the city on Monday night following their Euro 2020 triumph “was not authorised”, according to Matteo Piantedosi the head of Rome’s prefettura (the public safety authority).

Thousands of fans packed the streets of central Rome to see the team celebrate their cup win after beating England on penalties in the final.

READ ALSO: ‘Football came home’: Italy celebrates Euro 2020 victory over England

Piantedosi told Italian newspaper Corriere della Sera on Wednesday: “We had denied permission to celebrate Italy’s victory in the European Championships on the open bus, but the pact was not respected.”

Piantedosi, who is Rome’s top public security official, said police had “no choice” but to let the parade go ahead after players Giorgio Chiellini and Leonardo Bonucci insisted on it.

Photo: Vincenzo Pinto/AFP

A meeting had been held on Friday with the Italian football federation (FIGC) to discuss plans for the celebrations if Italy won, said Piantedosi.

“I had agreed the line with Interior Minister Luciana Lamorgese and Chief of Police Lamberto Giannini,” he said.

“It was clearly explained that [the parade] was not possible. We said we could not authorize it.”

Piantedosi said the Italian football federation (FIGC) initially agreed to hold a “controlled” ceremony in Rome’s central Piazza del Popolo instead of the parade.

After players insisted on the bus tour on Monday however, Piantedosi said, authorities reluctantly let them go ahead due to fears of sparking public disorder.

“At that point we had no choice but to acknowledge the situation and handle it in the best way we could,” he said.

READ ALSO: Covid cases on the rise in Europe once again as WHO warns of Euro 2020 risk

Photo: Andreas Solaro/AFP

In a statement on Wednesday, the FIGC said it had acted responsibly but decided not to disappoint fans who had come to celebrate with the team.

Footage of large crowds thronging the bus carrying the ‘Azzurri’ and the European Championship trophy through the capital however fuelled concerns about new outbreaks of coronavirus, after Italy’s infection rate began to rise again last week.

The World Health Organization warned earlier this month that crowds and gatherings connected to football matches will fuel a new rise in cases across Europe this summer.

READ ALSO: Delta variant in Italy will be ‘prevalent within 10 days’: health official

Italy’s health minister Roberto Speranza also voiced concerns on Monday about the consequences of people gathering to watch sporting events.

He said the European football championship win was “a great joy after terrible months,” but “even in these moments of national pride we can’t forget that our ‘game’ to defeat Covid is not yet won.”

There are currently minimal health restrictions in place across Italy, however masks are supposed to be worn in crowded public places, including outdoors.

“Footage shows that police were virtually the only ones [in the crowd] wearing masks,” said Piantedosi.

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