Jan Paul van Hecke: Playing AS Roma will be special

Dutch defender looks ahead to the first leg of our Europa League last-16 clash.

By Nick Szczepanik • 04 March 2024

By Paul Hazlewood
van Hecke missed our last European away trip through suspension.

Jan Paul van Hecke insists that the players feel the same excitement as the fans about Albion’s European adventures.

After trips to Marseille, Amsterdam and Athens, the first knockout round of the Europa League takes Roberto De Zerbi’s men to Rome and JP admits the draw was exciting for the squad.

“When you watch the draw it feels a bit unreal sometimes to see Brighton drawn against Roma and yourself in it,” he said.

“It’s really special going to the Stadio Olimpico and it’s special for all of us. There are great stadiums [in the Europa League] and you play against great teams.

“You never know with the draw who you’re going to get and then you hope you get a nice game and we got one. So hopefully we’ll go through to the next round.”

By Paul Hazlewood
Jan Paul played a key role in a clean sheet last time out in Europe.

The Dutch defender got an early steer on our next opponents even before the draw sent us to the Eternal City.

“I watched Roma’s game against Feyenoord because I’m from Holland and it was a good game to watch,” he said.

“Roma are a good team with really strong players but I think for us there are also really good opportunities and we will try to go there and have a good result. It’s a hard opponent but I think we are a strong team as well so let’s see.”

By Paul Hazlewood
JP is ready for another battle with a top European striker.

He could find himself up against Romelu Lukaku, who made his name in the UK with Chelsea, West Brom, Everton and Manchester United before moving to Italy, first with Internazionale.

The Belgium striker has scored 25 goals so far this season in all competitions including internationals, netting most recently in Roma’s 4-1 victory away to Monza on Saturday.

“He’s a big striker and he’s already won a lot of trophies,” JP said. “But it’s good to play against the best so you can test yourself and I’m looking forward to it.”