Roma's Return to Champions League a Huge Moment for Coach Rudi Garcia

Roma last featured in the competition in the 2010/2011 campaign when they reached the round of 16. The team will now host injury-hit CSKA Moscow.

Updated: September 16, 2014 09:49 IST
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Roma Rudi Garcia
Roma coach Rudi Garcia (R) is hoping to mentor his team to Champions League glory this year.

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Milan: Roma coach Rudi Garcia has embraced the club's return to the Champions League just days ahead of welcoming injury-hit CSKA Moscow to the Olympic Stadium for their Group E opener against the Russian side.

Roma last featured in the competition in the 2010/2011 campaign when they reached the round of 16 and will be desperate to make a positive start before later group fixtures with heavyweights Manchester City and 2013 Champions League winners Bayern Munich.

Despite the apparent enormity of the task ahead, Garcia is enthused by the idea of his side, Serie A's runners-up last season behind Juventus, returning to Europe's top table.

"The Champions League is a fantastic competition. I've already experienced it as coach of Lille," Garcia said after Roma's 1-0 win away to Empoli at the weekend.

"The players are also looking forward to playing in Europe again, but tonight our minds were on Empoli."

Having a fixture against a side that is still finding its feet in Italy's top flight days prior to CSKA's visit was perfect for Roma's French handler.

Garcia was confident enough to rest Ivorian striker Gervinho, veteran 37-year-old playmaker Francesco Totti and forward Juan Iturbe, with only Gervinho making a late cameo appearance in the final 10 minutes.

Along with enforced absences and injuries, Garcia is likely to field a reshuffled side to the one he deployed in Tuscany.

Italy international Daniele De Rossi is suspended, meaning Seydou Keita is set for his full debut while attacking midfielder Kevin Strootman (knee) is still sidelined, as could be defender Leandro Castan (thigh).

But if Roma thought they had problems, they pale in comparison to those of CSKA handler Leonid Slutsky.

CSKA, the 2005 UEFA Cup winners, are missing defender Georgi Schennikov, midfielder Rasmus Elm and forward Vitinho through injury, while halfback Aleksandrs Cauna remains a fitness doubt.

Russian international Alan Dzagoev and Swede Pontus Wernbloom will also sit out the first of respective three-match bans after being sent-off last season against Czech side Viktoria Plzen.

After labouring to a 2-1 win over newly-promoted Arsenal Tula at the weekend, Slutsky admitted his players were sluggish after competing in international games.

"It's always hard to play after the break for international matches," said Slutsky.

"We lacked freshness and failed to close down the match in the first half."

And if Garcia needed any more encouragement ahead of a match Roma must win if they are to realistically secure a top two place, Slutsky added: "It's really hard to appraise the degree of our readiness for the Champions League before its start.

"Only the matches will show whether we're ready for the new European campaign."

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