MEDFORD, Mass. — Rudi Garcia pulled off a stunner in his first season at the helm of AS Roma, leading the Italian club to a second-place finish in Serie A and a bid straight to the Champions League group stage.
Now, as his team readies for its 2014-15 opener, a friendly against Premier League runner-up Liverpool FC at Fenway Park, the 50-year-old head coach is ready to prove his initial success was not an anomaly.
“When I came here last season,” Garcia told reporters through a translator after Tuesday’s training session at Tufts University, “I said that I wanted to win, to be ambitious, and obviously I am not changing my message now.”
The question now is if Roma can translate last season’s success into its first Serie A title in 13 years — a debate made a great deal more interesting by Antonio Conte’s decision last week to resign as head coach of three-time defending league champion Juventus. Conte’s resignation shocked many in Italy, and Garcia admitted he was surprised by the timing of the announcement.
“Rather by the decision itself, I’m surprised by the moment the decision was taken,” Garcia said. “However, you should know the background behind such a decision. What I know for sure is that Juventus have won the last three scudettos (Serie A titles) and will be a very good and strong competitor as usual. And apart from Juventus, some other big clubs will try to stay at the top of the table in Italy.
“Our objective is to be as strong as possible and be effective in the (Serie A) Championship even though we are playing in the Champions League, which wastes many energies.”
The fact that Roma will compete in both Serie A and the Champions League this season was a point of emphasis for Garcia throughout his news conference, as the coach stressed that while he hopes to have success in the international competition, the domestic one is the top priority.
Garcia also advised fans not to place too much stock in the team’s upcoming friendlies (Wednesday’s Liverpool matchup will be followed by dates with Manchester United in Denver, Real Madrid in Dallas and Inter Milan in Philadelphia) as the lineups for those games might differ from which players will fill starting roles when the regular season begins. Midfielders Daniele De Rossi and Miralem Pjanic, for example, are not fit enough to play against Liverpool, Garcia said.
“Do not get this wrong — this is not Champions League,” Garcia continued. “These are only friendly games. The most important thing, our main object is to be ready to start the Championship, which is our big goal of the season.”
Kickoff for Football at Fenway — a rematch of the 2012 event, which Roma won 2-1 — is set for 7:30 p.m.
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