Last season’s Serie A runners-up have no small task ahead of themselves if they are to qualify for the second round of the prestigious tournament, coming up against Premier League champions Chelsea and perennial Champions League contenders Atletico Madrid in the competition’s group stage.
Di Francesco, who took over management of the Giallorossi from an Inter-bound Luciano Spalletti at the start of the season, pulled no punches in his analysis of the challenge awaiting his team.
“Chelsea and Atletico Madrid are important clubs, while Qarabag are not to be underestimated,” the coach told Roma’s official website, referring to the Azerbaijani club who will be making their tournament debut this year.
“Over the last four years, Atletico Madrid have played in two finals, showing how accustomed they are to playing at this level,” he continued.
“They do not play beautiful football, but they always get a result through solid football.
“Aside from the players at their disposal, their strength is to work so much with Diego Simeone,” he continued, referring to Los Colchoneros’ combative manager.
“Chelsea are also very strong this season. They have a top-level Coach in Antonio Conte, who I know well, and a squad of great players.
“They reinforced this summer with Alvaro Morata and we must always respect everyone,” the former Sassuolo boss added.