Roma coach Daniele De Rossi insists Paulo Dybala needs tactical ‘freedom’ like Francesco Totti and confirms Renato Sanches will be available against Cagliari on Monday.

The Giallorossi host Claudio Ranieri’s Cagliari at the Stadio Olimpico on Sunday night in a meeting between De Rossi and one of his ex-Roma coaches, Claudio Ranieri.

“We are tied with a nice bond,” De Rossi said at a press conference on Sunday, as quoted by

“With him, I lived the most exciting moments here. First when we came close to winning the title and then when we both left the club of our hearts. It was great to live these emotions with a man like him. I have a sincere affection for him, I will be more pleased to see him again and beat him this time after having found him last year in Cagliari. In addition to respect as a coach, I have a true affection for him”.

Paulo Dybala will start against the Sardinians tomorrow. The Argentinean often contributes to Roma’s build-up by collecting the ball deep in central midfielder so De Rossi was asked if this is a specific tactical requirement.

“There are players who have talent and need more freedom,” he replied.

“It can happen that he makes a decisive move, but the important thing is that another player fills that space. Our target is to fill spaces well, beat the opponents’ pressing and play closer to the edge of the box. He does what he wants and it’s right to do so. I played with Totti for 20 years and nobody would tell him where to play. We only needed to keep our heads down, wait for the ball and score. If we realise that Dybala has this sort of talent, then we need to use it.”

De Rossi won the first two games in charge of Roma and are recovering a few injured players, like Renato Sanches and Chris Smalling who have been out of action for several weeks. Smalling has only made three appearances with the Giallorossi this term.

“It’s great for a coach to work for the team for an entire week even if we are happy that European competitions return and we want to be involved for as long as possible,” said De Rossi.

“We have been working on many different things; we have pushed hard, and the lads have replied greatly.

“Sanches is a little ahead of Smalling and completed all training sessions with the team. He has completed the recovery, and he will be called up, although he won’t start. With Chris, we changed the workload because it wasn’t too heavy. He will return against Inter or Feyenoord.

“Sanches hasn’t had an easy year in terms of injuries, but he’s been immediately available. To me, he seems calm, but I don’t know what happened in the past. Everyone needs something and the coach must say the right things at the right time.”

Roma signed Angelino and Tommaso Baldanzi in the January transfer window, but their third winter purchase, the defender Dean Huijsen, who joined on loan from Juventus, has been excluded from Roma’s Europa League list.

“Angelino and Baldanz have quality with and without the ball. I like that they have quality, of course, they need time to settle in, but the interaction with teammates is positive,” said DDR.

“I didn’t make the UEFA list; I made three allowed changes. I had three spots for five players. We have many central defenders, and in the end, Huijsen was affected, but I consider him and Kristensen two important players. They will play in the future, but they had to remain out, unfortunately.”

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