Speaking to the media after Napoli’s Champions League defeat to Real Madrid on Tuesday night, Dries Mertens apologised to Roma’s supporters for how he celebrated his first goal against the Giallorossi last weekend in the Partenopei’s 2-1 win at the Olimpico.
Il Corriere della Sera (Luca Valdiserri) One game can change an entire season and, perhaps, even the future. Saturday’s head to head for 2nd place sees Roma and Napoli go into their respective European ties with differing states of mind (and fitness). In 4 days, Roma have lost at the Olimpico against Lazio (1st leg of the Coppa Italia semi final) and the Partenopei. They hadn’t lost at home in the league since 29th November, 2015 (Roma 0-2 Atalanta), when Rudi Garcia – apparently the root cause of all the team’s problems – was still the coach. Thursday evening’s match in Lyon (1st leg of the Europa League Round of 16) is now their last hope. They need to keep their hopes alive of not having another season of good results but “zeru tituli“. Spalletti needs to find the real Roma again, particularly physically, and quickly.
Corriere dello Sport (Roberto Maida) Don’t be too hasty in starting to make judgements. Roma aren’t the accused, they aren’t even on the list of suspects yet. Otherwise how would it be possible to explain the marvellous victory in San Siro, which came just 7 days ago? After the midweek derby and the defeat to Napoli, however, there are the first signs of discontent, the first uncertainties in a season that has been exciting in places but is now in danger of slipping away. In just 66 hours – coming between one game and the other – enthusiasm has been replaced by dejection and fear. What’s going on, Mr Spalletti?
Corriere Dello Sport (Guido D’Ubaldo) In the 7th minute of the second half, when the Olimpico had just been silenced by Mertens’ second goal, Spalletti made a double substitution to try and get his team back into the game.
Corriere dello Sport (Alberto Polverosi) Napoli won with another fantastic brace from Mertens and now the race for second place has opened up again, but the race for the title is now almost certainly over after yesterday’s game. Roma will fall 10 points behind Juve, if the reigning champions win in Udine. While the league table might now be a bit more of a cause for concern, as are the 3 consecutive defeats at the Olimpico in 3 different competitions, more pressing for Spalletti are some bitter reflections on his team’s mistakes (as well as his own), on the declining physical condition of his team and on their inability to react to things going wrong, both from one game to the next and within the 90 minutes themselves.
Il Tempo (Alessandro Austini) There is belief, and there needs to be like never before. Roma are sat just 1 point behind Juventus, though this should be multiplied by 4 given that the Bianconeri should easily win their game in hand against Crotone on 8th February. Even so, that gap is hardly big enough for fans to stop dreaming. It has been a very open title race so far and will continue to be if Roma and Juventus continue to perform on the pitch, where they have been winning all their home games but dropping a few points on the road. The difference, leaving the match they played against each other to one side, is those wretched draws the Giallorossi got at Cagliari and Empoli – the 4 points they dropped in those games have given Allegri a sense of security. But Spalletti’s hopes remain intact: as well as the recent positive signs he can also look back at recent seasons with interest. If we limit ourselves to the last decade, Roma have never been so close to the top of the table after 21 games, from the 11 point gap in 2006/07 to Mancini’s Inter, when Spalletti himself was in charge and the league was getting used to the after-effects of Calciopoli, to the 12 point deficit to Napoli last season: the club’s lowest point came after their defeat in the Juventus Stadium on matchday 21 but was the prelude to the Giallorossi’s remarkable resurgence back up the Serie A table to make up 10 points on Sarri’s side, who in the meantime had been overtaken by Juventus.
La Gazzetta dello Sport (Fabio Bianchi) Things were set in stone. It shouldn’t have been possible for them to change. But now the old cliché of Italian teams setting themselves up primarily not to concede goals has finally been turned on its head. Scoring is, finally, at the forefront of our league’s top sides. It’s the most obvious thing of all to say that to win you have to score goals. To score goals, teams need lots of attackers – and good ones. 20 years ago, the system changed to 3 points for a win, and this helped enormously. But recent seasons have shown a surge of goalscorers, particularly this season. We’re just past the halfway mark of the season, and you can clearly see that this scudetto race will be a race like few others.