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Roma vs. Juventus: From midfielder to coach, Di Francesco gets the rivalry

New Roma boss previews the International Champions Cup match in Foxboro.

Udinese Calcio v US Sassuolo - Serie A
Eusebio Di Francesco played for Roma from 1997-2001. He’ll begin his first season as the team’s head coach later this summer.
Photo by Dino Panato/Getty Images

Eusebio Di Francesco needs no introduction to Roma’s rivalry with Juventus. From 1997-2001, he manned Roma’s midfield, going toe-to-toe with La Vecchia Signora in front of roaring crowds at Stadio Olimpico.

“They were always fantastic games, massive games,” said Di Francesco to the Bent Musket, speaking through a translator. “I have great memories of playing Juventus.”

On Sunday, when Roma plays its final International Champions Cup match, Di Francesco will face his old rival again. Yet this time, the match will take place at Gillette Stadium. And Di Francesco will roam the sidelines as Roma’s head coach.

The Pescara, Italy native latched on with his former club earlier this summer when Luciano Spalletti left for Inter Milan. Since taking the reins, Di Francesco has coached four pre-season matches for Roma—including a win over Tottenham and a loss in penalty kicks to PSG in the International Champions Cup. His fifth will get the most attention, but that doesn’t mean Di Francesco will coach the match any differently.

“I really hope to see the same approach and the same attitude by our team,” he said, speaking of Roma’s recent form. “I want to keep improving, keep building.”

International Champions Cup 2017 - AS Roma v Paris Saint-Germain
De Francesco coached his first ICC match on July 19 against PSG.
Photo by Duane Burleson/Getty Images

To do so, he will give playing time to a few new faces.

“I am obviously going to change some players from the match against Tottenham, we’ll have some new additions.” Di Francesco said. “I believe all of my players are potential starters. All of them will have a chance to earn minutes.”

But no matter who he slots into his Starting XI, Di Francesco’s formula for beating Juventus remains straightforward.

“From a tactical standpoint, we need to play our game and be true to our style,” he said. “We’ll be as offensive as possible and be careful not to be caught off guard on the counter attack, because they’re a really good counter-attacking team.”

If Roma can find this balance, the team has a shot at winning the International Champions Cup. The club picked up a point for ending regulation tied against PSG last week, and currently occupies the third spot on the table. A win over Juventus, coupled with a Barcelona loss to Real Madrid on Saturday, would propel I Giallorossi to a surprise tournament win.

That would be a fine way for Di Francesco to open his account. And the fans at Gillette Stadium can help him get there.

“Boston fans should support the team playing the best football,” he concluded, “and hopefully that will be Roma.”