Roma’s 5-2 victory on Sunday at home to Novara – coupled with the three teams directly above them all losing – has given the Giallorossi a chance to end the season in 3rd.
Luis Enrique endured a difficult start to his reign as coach. Early elimination from the Europa League alongside defeats against the likes of Cagliari and Genoa meant that the Spanish coach did not receive a great welcome from the majority of the Roma fans. Yet, there has been an improvement on the pitch in recent weeks, and now there is a real possibility that Enrique’s men could be playing in the Champions League next season.
Roma travel to the Via Del Mare, Lecce, on Saturday in what could be considered their most important game of the season. This game is must win for the Lupi as a few hours later Lazio host Napoli in game where at least one – if not both – teams will drop points. Also given the fact that at times Roma have struggled against the so-called “smaller clubs”, this will be a big test of character for the side.
Roma are by no means favourites for third spot. Many believe that Water Mazzarri’s Napoli will claim the last Champions League place and Roma play them in week 35 at the Stadio Olimpico. The game ends a run of four massive games for Roma starting with home matches against Udinese and Fiorentina then a trip to Turin to play Juventus before the “Derby Del Sole”.
Roma’s final three fixtures see them travel to Verona to face Chievo, entertain their former player and coach Vincenzo Montella and his Catania side, and on the last day they play Cesena away. If Roma could stay in the hunt for Champions League with three games to go they would fancy picking up points against those opponents. Although Roma’s form as improved recently it still remains inconsistent.
One aspect of their game that still remains poor, and at various points during the season has been unacceptable, is the defence. There has been a recurring theme that Roma have played well but have been hit on the counter attack. A lack of pace at the back and key mistakes from the likes of Simon Kjaer, who came with a good reputation after his time in Sicily with Palermo but has disappointed, has cost Roma countless times in Serie A this season.
Another problem that has hindered Roma is a lack of goals. Fabio Borini and Paolo Osvaldo have both impressed but have not been able to sustain their good form over the entire season. Apart from that duo, the next top goal scorer is Francesco Totti with just four goals in the league. This is an even more of a concern for Roma given that they have controlled matches and created many chances.
All that said, Roma still find themselves in a great position, but should they Roma finish 3rd would Lazio and Udinese feel they have thrown it away?
During the Christmas break Udinese were ten points in front of Roma and were just a win away from the summit of the Serie A table. Yet now they have serious competition to make Europe altogether. They have won just one game in the last nine and the team’s fitness has been questioned; even their manager Francesco Guidolin has stated that his team is tired.
After the derby win on 4th March, Lazio were ten points clear of their fierce rivals, yet less than moth later Roma have pulled back six points. Lazio problems seem to revolve around their coach Edy Reja. His strange relationship with the board has resulted in him resigning more than once this season. Also, like Roma, they have had defensive problem, with Reja saying after the 3-1 defeat against Parma at the weekend “We make too many mistakes.”
It is by no means a three-horse race. Inter despite all that has gone on this season are only three points behind Roma under their new coach Andrea Stramaccioni. A point behind Inter are Catania, the surprise package of the campaign, under the stewardship of Montella.
Luis Enrique may well find himself in Europe if not the Champions League next season, but that does not pave over the cracks. Napoli are favourites for the third spot and should be confident despite the 3-0 defeat at the Juventus Stadium on Sunday night. There are still to be many twists and turns in a truly fascinating race for 3rd place.
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