Corriere dello Sport (Guido D’Ubaldo) The future in 270 minutes. Roma will be playing for theirs over the next 3 games, the last with Spalletti on the bench. But the coach wants to leave having accomplished something very important to the club: finishing second, which has been in the balance for the last few weeks after seeming certain in October. The third last game of the season will be crucial, with Torino hosting Napoli and Roma hosting Juventus. If Napoli don’t beat Mihajlovic’s team, the Giallorossi can even afford to lose against the Bianconeri after having picked up 6 points in the last 2 games. But Sarri’s team are in great form and Roma need to avoid taking any risks and aim to pick up 3 points. In order to do that, Spalletti is going to have to cobble together a starting 11. But he is hoping to have both Nainggolan and Perotti back, who picked up injuries last Sunday evening in San Siro. Strootman will be absent as he serves the second match of his suspension, as will Dzeko, who picked up a muscular injury against Milan. The coach will be forced to reshuffle his midfield and attack, but Rudiger will be back in defence, allowing Roma to have their first choice back 4 again with the German on the right, Manolas and Fazio in the centre, and Emerson Palmieri in his natural position at left back. De Rossi and Paredes will be in central midfield again, just like in San Siro, where the Argentine had an excellent game. Nainggolan should play as a trequartista in the 4-2-3-1 formation, with Perotti playing as a false 9 in Spalletti’s striker-less attack. Last season, this striker-less attack revitalised Roma and spurred them on to finish 3rd.
Corriere dello Sport (Furio Fedele, Alberto Polverosi) Yesterday Spalletti played 4 forwards as well as Nainggolan, who can be considered a trequartista – or at least an attacking midfielder – by now. The 5 Giallorossi players contributed as follows. Edin Dzeko: a double and an assist for El Shaarawy, 5 shots of which 2 were on target (the goals). Mohamed Salah: an assist for Dzeko, winning a penalty and forcing a red card (for Paletta). Diego Perotti: a shot off the post and 4 shots. Stephan El Shaarawy: a goal and 3 shots in half an hour. Radja Nainggolan: a shot off the post and 5 shots. The Belgian was eventually substituted after sustaining muscle fatigue.
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.
La Gazzetta dello Sport (Chiara Zucchelli) “There’s not much to say but there’s lots to do.” Exactly a year ago, on 26th January, 2016, Stephan El Shaarawy came to Trigoria saying these words. Following his unsuccessful spell with Monaco, he and his brother had landed at Fiumicino the night before to be welcomed by general indifference. The striker signed for Roma with two aims in mind: to show that, at 23 years old, he could still reach his potential, and to get into Italy’s squad for the European Championships. He achieved both during an outstanding 6 month spell: 8 goals and 2 assists in 18 games, scoring with his right foot, his left foot and his head; he has an exemplary relationship with the fans; and his relationship with Spalletti was a carrot-and-stick one, but the coach made both El Shaarawy and Roma soar.
During their time together at Genoa, Gian Piero Gasperini constantly told Diego Perotti: “Smile, Diego, have a laugh once in a while.” When he brought Perotti to Genoa, the Argentine was a shadow of the man who had once been one of Europe’s hottest properties. Just a couple of years ago, it seemed like he was finished – so much so that Sevilla, who had previously set his release clause at €48m, were prepared to let him go to Genoa for just €350,000 plus a 10% sell-on fee. Now, Perotti is a new man, capable once again of taking on players with ease and confidence. As Roma and Perotti prepare to face Gasperini, currently in charge at Atalanta, it’s worth reflecting on his rise to fame at Sevilla, his downward spiral through injury, and his hard climb back to the top.
La Gazzetta dello Sport (Chiara Zucchelli) Rehearsals before the African Cup of Nations? It may be too soon to tell, but even so, during yesterday’s friendly at Trigoria against the Primavera, Luciano Spalletti may have given the first indication of his plans when he used a 3-4-3 formation against Alberto De Rossi’s team. Perotti played more on the right hand side of the attack than El Shaarawy – il Faraone was therefore able to play on his preferred wing, and that is probably not just a coincidence. Just as it may not have been a coincidence that Spalletti continued to insist on playing a 3 (and a half) man defence, which could be entrenched as Roma’s Plan A now that Rudiger has returned to full fitness.
Roma are out of the Champions League after succumbing to Real Madrid in the Bernabeu, but while their exit may not have been unsurprising for long periods of the game it looked like it could have ended very differently. An aggregate defeat by a hefty 4-0 scoreline is hard to argue to be undeserved, but it’s certainly hard on Roma and combine the refereeing decisions from the first leg and the incredible amount of missed chances in the second leg and it’s certainly arguable that the Giallorossi had an opportunity to progress.