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Strootman shows great character, but is still not ready - Spalletti

Luciano Spalletti praised Kevin Strootman's character but does not feel the Dutchman is ready to start his first competitive match since January 2015.

Strootman returned after lengthy rehabilitation following cruciate knee ligament surgery for a first Serie A appearance in over a year as a 78th-minute substitute in the 5-0 victory over Palermo on February 21.

The midfielder, who was limited to just six Serie A appearances in during an injury-blighted 2014-15 season, has made his only other outing this term as a second-half stoppage-time replacement against Udinese on March 13.

In the eyes of the Roma boss, Strootman is not yet fit enough to play regularly in Serie A, but his mental strength has been noted.

"We'd planned to bring him on against Bologna [on Monday] depending on how the game went," Spalletti said on Roma Radio.

"He's still not quite there yet and it would be better for him to do it by playing in real match situations.

"His quality and strength – both mentally and on the pitch – are factors I'm bearing in mind. He's certainly not lacking in character. "

Roma hold a six-point advantage over Inter in the race for the final Champions League qualification place and travel to face Atalanta on Sunday.

Spalletti wants to see his side dominate the match in Bergamo and avoid entering a physical battle.

"We have to be good enough to take the game by the scruff of the neck and control proceedings," he continued. "We have the ability to do that and we need to exploit it.

"Atalanta are a stubborn side. They've made it hard for everyone at their place and if we tried to go toe-to-toe with them in a physical battle they'd probably come out on top.

"But if we can control 70 per cent of the game, I think our quality will come to the fore."