Smalling is ready for his Old Trafford return
Chris Smalling admits he'll have extra motivation when he steps on to the Old Trafford pitch once more, this time to play against Manchester United for his current club Roma.
The defender's presence at the stadium he called home for a decade is one of the intriguing sub-plots for the Europa League semi-final, with Henrikh Mkhitaryan also returning as a former Red. However, neither player will get a warm welcome back - at least not from the fans, who are still unable to attend due to the COVID-19 pandemic of course.
"I think that's one disappointment, not to have a full house and all my friends and family watching a game between two clubs who have been a big part of my career," said Smalling, when speaking at Roma's pre-match press conference.
"That's one unfortunate thing but it doesn't take away the emotional side because I'll know every player on the pitch and it's such a big game as well. It has all the ingredients for wanting to give one of your best performances."
"It's no secret that I've missed a lot of games this season which is very unusual for me but now I'm feeling fit and ready to contribute. I'm feeling good.
"I've had some good training coming into this game and I'm ready to play 90 minutes if the manager decides it. I can't wait to just get on the pitch and get going. There's obviously been a lot of build-up to this game and there's a lot of excitement at this stage of the competition, the semi-finals. I'm just keen to get my boots and help push us on."
When asked if facing his recent former team-mates will spur him on, Smalling replied: "One hundred per cent. It's a special game, it's a semi-final and added on top of that, it's against United.
"Obviously, being in Rome for almost the last two years, I know the importance of bringing home a trophy, it hasn't happened for us for far too long. There are so many ingredients to this I don't think there could be a bigger game for me to be a part of. I'm just thankful that I'm now fit and I'm able to contribute."
"They're obviously having a very good season," he said. "When Ole first came in, I was injured but as soon as I got fit, he played me. We had a good relationship and we had a very honest conversation in the summer. Now our teams will meet on the pitch and I'm looking forward to it."