8.05.2023Europa League

Former Leverkusen player Donati: ‘That’s how you beat AS Roma’

The Werkself are away to AS Roma in the first leg of the Europa League semi-final tie on Thursday 11 May (kick-off: 21.00 CEST). Somebody who knows the Roman side very well and is the only Italian player to appear for Bayer 04 to date is Giulio Donati. The full-back is currently playing for AC Monza and a few days ago faced AS Roma in Serie A. spoke to the 33-year-old to find out how to beat the Italian side and about the atmosphere the fans can expect at the Stadio Olimpico. In the interview, Donati also explains that he misses Leverkusen and he will be crossing his fingers for the Werkself on Thursday night.

The full-back made 67 appearances for Bayer 04 between 2013 and 2015 including alongside the current sporting managing director Simon Rolfes. Donati returned to his home country of Italy via Mainz and he has been playing for Monza since 2020.

Giulio, a few days ago you played for Monza against AS Roma. The game ended in a 1-1 draw. How can the Roman side be beaten?

Donati: Roma have a very energetic team with lots of stand-out players like Stephan El Shaarawy and Tammy Abraham. But several key players did not feature against us. You can say they have perfected the renowned Mourinho style: They let the opposition play in their own half with the focus more on defence and counter-attacking. The fast and agile Leverkusen strikers could pose problems for Roma’s defence. They can be beaten. Particularly with set pieces as was the case in the game against us last week.

What atmosphere can the Werkself and the Bayer 04 fans expect at the Stadio Olimpico on Thursday?

Donati: The AS fans are passionate and amongst the best in the whole of Italy. The stadium is massive and will be full against Leverkusen. The atmosphere will be incredible and the team and the fans have grown even closer together through José Mourinho. But as far as I know the Leverkusen players, they will handle this special situation.

Giulio Donati lined up for the Werkself against AS Roma at the Stadio Olimpico on 20 October 2015 and the Italians won 3-2.

What role does the coach José Mourinho play?

Donati: Everyone in Italy knows him, above all from his successful time with Inter Milan (Champions League winners, champions and cup winners, ed.). thanks to his special character, he gets 100% commitment out of each player. Of course, he also has his tricks and characteristics and he has a great influence on events on the pitch from the touchline. For me, he is one of the best coaches in the world in terms of emotion.

You are considered to be an Italy expert in Leverkusen as no other Italian player has appeared for Bayer 04 to date. Did you know about that?

Donati: Yes, I knew that. (He laughs) It’s an honour for me and I can recommend Leverkusen to every player. I’m still in contact with Karim Bellarabi. It’s great to see that Karim and several other lads are still at the club today. Simon Rolfes as the sporting managing director for example: I played alongside him. I had a wonderful time there. I miss Leverkusen.

How would you describe football in Serie A compared with the Bundesliga?

Donati: Football in Italy is more tactical with the opponents analysed inside out. The focus on training is much more on defence and preventing goals. In Germany the game is quicker. There are more chances, more excitement. In Italy the result comes first and in Germany bringing through young players is important. I like that.

Giulio Donati has played for AC Monza in Serie A since the summer of 2020.

You were in the Werkself starting line-up in 2015/2016 in both games against AS Roma in the Champions League. What are your memories of those matches?

Donati: They were two games with an incredible amount of goals (4-4 and 2-3, ed.) and loads of emotion. Roma had some special players in their ranks. Daniele de Rossi, Alessandro Florenzi, Mohamed Salah, to name just a few. I definitely won’t forget those matches.

And who will you be rooting for on Thursday?

Donati: I’m planning to watch the games. There are no favourites from a football perspective as two great teams will face each other. Leverkusen are doing very well under Xabi Alonso and Roma never give up. I’ll be crossing my fingers for Leverkusen.

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