Paulo Fonseca on the hot-seat in Roma

Roma has struggled in recent weeks with Paulo Fonseca attracting heavy criticism in the nation’s capital. The Giallorossi suffered a disappointing defeat against Lazio in the latest iteration of the Derby Della Capitale and most recently slumped to a shock elimination against Spezia in the Coppa Italia. To make matters worse, Fonseca wrongly made six substitutions, handing Roma its second forfeit of the season.

Roma avenged its defeat in the Coppa Italia on Saturday, but nearly dropped points once again. The Italian giants needed a stoppage-time winner to overcome Spezia, with Lorenzo Pellegrini firing home the winner in the seven-goal thriller. The win offers Fonseca some temporary respite in the Roma hot-seat, but as the disappointing performances pile on the tactician’s future is very much in doubt.

According to recent reports, Roma is seriously considering replacing Fonseca come summertime with a number of high-profile managers in contention. Massimiliano Allegri and Maurizio Sarri have since been linked with the job, casting further uncertainty over Fonseca’s future.

Despite the increased reports, Roma is still picking up results, emerging as legitimate top-four contenders. While the Giallorossi have gotten the job done thus far, their struggles against top sides over the course of the season have been concerning. Roma is yet to win in its clashes against Italy’s top six, losing to Atalanta, Napoli, and Lazio, while playing out to draws against Juventus, Milan, and Inter.

Beyond the disappointing results, Roma has conceded 16 goals in these six games, highlighting their defensive issues. In many ways, the second half of the season will be defining for Fonseca’s tenure in the nation’s capital. The first step for the Portuguese tactician is guiding Roma back into Europe’s elite competition. Should Fonseca deliver Champions League football at Roma, the case for his departure weakens significantly.

The reality is, Champions League football alone is simply not enough. Roma must demonstrate considerable improvement against Italy’s giants in the second half of the season. As the race for top four intensifies, it may just prove to be the difference. While qualifying for Champions League football is good in itself, Roma needs to show it can compete at the highest level under Fonseca.

Fonseca’s naivety has been on display in big games with Roma, underlining a worrying trend. Should the lapses in concentration continue, the Roma brass must seriously consider how much of their woes stem from their manager. The Portuguese boss has instilled an entertaining and expansive brand of football, but Roma often falls short in their own defensive third.

Let’s now consider Fonseca’s potential replacements. Allegri has regularly proven to be one of Italy’s elite tacticians, enjoying varying degrees of success where he goes. The former Juventus boss would offer Roma some much-needed stability and pragmatism, which will especially come in handy in big games. If Allegri is interested in the job, there is no reason why Roma shouldn’t pull the trigger.

Other than Allegri, Sarri has often been linked with the Roma hot-seat. The 62-year-old was most recently sacked by Juventus despite leading them to yet another Scudetto. Sarri’s 4-3-3 is arguably a better fit for Roma’s current roster, making for an intriguing appointment. While his ideas never fully got implemented in Turin, a potential move to Roma could just be the shake-up Sarri needs. With the pressure to deliver trophies reduced, Sarri could hit the ground running – much like it was the case with Napoli.

Fonseca’s time in the nation’s capital may just be coming to an end, even if he leads Roma back into the Champions League. Allegri and Sarri represent a better fit given their experience in Serie A and could offer Roma a fresh start they need.

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Roma fall 9 pts behind after derby defeat against Lazio and exit Coppa Italia

Of all the defeats Roma can take in a Serie A season the one that will always hurt the most is the defeat in the derby and at the weekend Paulo Fonseca’s team were no match for Lazio.

Lazio ran out 3-0 winners and while the final result looked more like gloss against a game that was closer no one could deny that Lazio were the more attacking side and deserved their win.

A terrible defensive error by Roma’s Ibanez allowed Lazio a glorious chance which Ciro Immobile snapped up to put the designated home side in the lead. That was Immobile’s 12 league goal of the season as he tries to catch up to Cristiano Ronaldo and is only 3 goals away from that target.

By the 23rd minute Lazio were 2-0 up courtesy of Luis Alberto. It was a strange goal as Manuel Lazzari came bursting into the area on the right hand side and he thought he had been fouled for a penalty, the referee waved on. However Lazzari quickly got up and passed the ball to an unmarked Alberto who slotted home well.

The best goal was saved for last in the 2nd half when Alberto placed the ball into the lower bottom right corner from just outside the area and his expression after the goal said it all, he knew it was a special goal and also a special derby performance from his club on such an important occasion.

The result means that Roma have fallen 9 points behind Milan in the race for the title and the Giallorossi are in 4th place on the same points as Napoli with 34 but they in turn are 6 points behind 2nd placed Inter. Despite losing their 4th game of the season Roma are still in a Champions League place but we are not even at the halfway stage of the season yet.

Coach Fonseca was obviously disappointed and a little dejected by the defeat against Lazio. Fonseca said: “We can’t change what happened, but we can start thinking that what happened should not happen again. The team must understand that we can only change the future by changing our attitude in the game. As I said I’m above all disappointed for our fans.”

Roma crash out of Coppa Italia against Spezia

Paulo Fonseca talked Spezia up and said they would be a dangerous side and he was correct. Spezia knocked out Roma after extra time winning 4-2. It was a game full of incident and for Spezia fans and the neutral it was one full of excitement too.

It looked all over for Roma after Spezia took an early two goal lead but the home side were able to pull a goal back just before half time through Lorenzo Pellegrini’s penalty. When Henrikh Mikahitaryan made it 2-2 late on in the 2nd half it seemed as though Roma were easing themselves back into the game and would go on and win it either in normal time or extra time, but Spezia would get the final say.

Roma imploded in extra time and had not one but 2 players sent off within 30 seconds of each other. Gianluca Mancini was given a his 2nd booking after a tripping and then frustration built up and Pau Lopez followed him for an early bath. Although the game was still 2-2 it became stretched and Spezia made playing against 9 men count and scored 2 goals soon after to kill the match. This was a very disappointing result for the club.

Tension mounts after sacking of Gianluca Gomber

Not only did Roma lose in the Coppa Italia to Spezia but they would have in fact been kicked out of the competition even if they had won the game. This was because the club made six substitute choices instead of the required 5 allowed.

The blame did not go to Paulo Fonseca as ‘team manager’ Gianluca Gomber was in charge of the count of subs being made. Unlike for example in England where only 3 subs are allowed, although five in the cup, in Italy and other major leagues 5 are allowed in all the games.

Gomber made the fatal error and was sacked by the club on Wednesday morning, the day after the game. But it doesn’t end there as Roma’s players are furious with the decision. Gomber was part of the behind the scenes team and the players had a close and good relationship with him. The players have made it known that they want Gomber reinstated and that anyone can make a mistake. Watch this space!

Could Fonseca be sacked too?

The big news breaking this week is that Roma coach Paulo Fonseca could be sacked. It is understood that the club were expecting to be much closer at the top of the league but 9 points seems like a mountain and now they have been knocked out of the cup Fonseca could go.

It has been rumoured that Max Allegri and Maurizio Sarri have emerged as the favourites to take over the club and that Fonseca’s job is under real threat. One would expect that if Roma fail to impress at the weekend where again they will face their cup conquerors Spezia he could be walking.

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Serie A Fantasy Preview – Round 19 – Remaining Games

BENEVENTO-TORINO

Benevento: they surely had a weird faux pas versus Crotone for a team that had been mostly steady so far. Moreover, their most prolific guy as of late, Marco Sau, got sent off from the bench and the always lively Roberto Insigne hurt his ankle, which makes him very questionable for this match. The only positive note was that Iago Falque managed to return after a long time on the shelf and bagged a lovely goal, the first of his campaign, but he has generally fared well whenever available to play. He remains an option even though the coach stated that he is not ready to start. The injuries could thrust him into a major role this one, while Gianluca Caprari, who was banged up going into the previous contest, will surely return to the XI: he is their leading scorer with four goal. Gianluca Lapadula is their tip of the spear but has not hit the net since early November. With Pasquale Schiattarella and Gaetano Letizia missing, Riccardo Improta and Artur Ionita are set to be their secondary playmakers, but they have not picked up many bonuses so far. Aggressive midfielder Andres Tello could have a big role as well. Continue reading

Roma go 4 games unbeaten as they prepare for the derby against Lazio

Such is the latest standard in Serie A that even though Roma have won 10 points from their last four games they would only be sixth based on form. But the Giallorossi have bigger fish to fry than just statistics as they aim to win the title for the first time in 2 decades.

A Serie A title is on the cards for Paulo Fonseca’s team who enter match day 18 in third place and just six points behind league leaders Milan.

Recent results have been brilliant and their 3 game winning run was only stopped by Inter at the weekend as the two clubs drew 2-2. However it would be Roma leaving the Stadio Olimpico as the happier side given that they were losing the game with just four minutes to go.

Gianluca Manciniian who had been booked earlier in the game for using his elbow went from villain to hero as he scored a lovely headed goal which reminded any football fan of Italian football of how Paolo Rossi used to score. Mancini scored in the 86th minute to save a defeat and it’s now been almost a month since Roma lost a game in the league.

In the midweek game before the Inter match Roma played Crotone away from home and eased to a 3-1 victory. The Giallorossi had taken a 2-0 lead through a brace by Borja Mayoral and Henrikh Mkhitaryan who had lost his touch in goal in the last few weeks scored the third.

Can Roma win the league title for the first time since 2001?

Roma have only won the Scudetto 3 times in their history and whilst they won’t be the favourites to win this season the clubs consistency has got fans talking and getting excited. Presently they just need to get past both Milan teams who are in 1st and 2nd place. But there is the looming threat of the sleeping giant, Juventus who have started the season slow but are now gaining momentum and they are only a point behind Roma. The bookmakers have Roma at odds of 17.00 (16/1) to win the league. The current favourites are Inter at 2.50 (6/4) and they are followed by the 9 time in a row champions Juventus who are 3.00 (2/1).

Lazio v Roma

The Derby della Capitale will take place on Friday evening when Roma meet Lazio and it will be a significant one. If Roma win they will stay in 3rd place but will have the same points as Inter with 37 and will have moved 4 points clear of Juventus. It might not look like giant steps but it will be positive.

Lazio are in 8th place and a win would take them just 3 points shy of Roma and dent their fierce rivals title hopes and European ones. Here is how the last 5 matches when Lazio have been at home have ended in the derby.

September 1st, 2019-    Lazio 1-1 Roma

March 2nd, 2019 -         Lazio 3-0 Roma

April 15th, 2018-            Lazio 0-0 Roma

December 4th, 2016-     Lazio 0-2 Roma

April 3rd, 2016-              Lazio 1-4 Roma

Lazio wins: 1, Roma wins: 2, Draws: 2

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Serie A Fantasy Preview – Round 18 – Top Matches

LAZIO-ROMA

Lazio: Ciro Immobile took a little back-seat in the Parma game, where two other fellow attackers shined, Luis Alberto, who broke the deadlock with his third goal in the last five matches, and Felipe Caicedo, who found the target for the second round in a row, moving to six total in the season. The Golden Boot recipient had scored in all the previous five tilts. Sergej Milinkovic-Savic dished his fifth assist to add to his two goals, as his role is slightly different this year, but he has maintained a decent level of production. Manuel Lazzari cashed in on his good moment with his second assist of the season, catching up with fellow wing-back Adam Marusic in that regard. Joaquin Correa (one goal, one assist) could be back at least in limited fashion in this one, but Caicedo has filled in admirably. The Sergeant tends to deliver in big matches.

Recommended picks: Milinkovic-Savic, Immobile, Alberto.  Continue reading

Inter lose pace on rivals Milan as Roma and Juventus come charging for Antonio Conte’s team

After having a fantastic record in the league Inter gained just 1 point this past week as they played two games. First it would be defeat at Sampdoria going down 2-1 to record only their 2nd defeat of the season and then they would draw 2-2 with Roma in a very entertaining game.

The defeat at Sampdoria really hurt the club because Milan finally lost a game, their first of the season and this was the time to catch them up. Milan lost 3-1 at home to Juventus.

The Sampdoria game looked like it wasn’t going to be Inter’s when Alexis Sanchez missed a 12th minute penalty, the omens were in the air and this just wasn’t going to be Inter’s night. Sampdoria took a 2-0 lead into half time and despite Stefan de Vrij pulling a goal back for Antonio Conte’s team they would go on to lose the game.

Normally Romelu Lukaku would have taken Sanchez’s place but he was back and recovering from a minor injury and had to start the match from the bench as a precaution. Inter had 11 shots on target and were far the better team but they couldn’t find that 2nd goal to get back into the game.

This past week hasn’t been easy for Inter whose 2 recent games have both been away from home and whilst they were expected to beat Sampdoria many thought they could struggle at the Stadio Olimpico against Roma and that so proved to be true.

In the end the final result did seem fair though with Roma starting well but as the game went on Inter creating the better chances. Inter found themselves 1-0 down early on when Lorenzo Pellegrini took a shot from outside the area after great build up play by Roma. The half ended 1-0 to the home side.

Inter though were piling on the pressure in the 2nd half and hit back with two goals in short time. The first was a brilliant powerful header from Milan Skriniar, the defender has been in great form lately.

It would be another defender who would help Inter out and put them in the lead a few minutes later with a brilliant strike by Achraf Hakimi. Inter looked like they would go on to win the game and there was just four minutes remaining when Roma broke their hearts.

Gianluca Mancini scored a great flick on header almost a classic style in the vein of the great Paolo Rossi to secure a point from Roma.

As a result the league is looking exciting however Milan has taken a 3 point lead from Inter and they have 40 points. Roma have 37 and have several teams hot on their trail in the form of Roma, Juventus and even Atalanta aren’t that far behind with 31 points.

Next weekend is the big one for Inter as they will face the champions of the last 9 seasons Juventus at home. Lose that and they could slip six points behind if Milan beat Cagliari.

What this week has proven is that despite the obvious talents of this Inter team where there are goals in all positions, they really miss a 100% Romelu Lukaku, he is the player they rely on and the heart beat of this team.

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Serie A Fantasy Preview – Round 16 – Top Matches

CROTONE-ROMA

Crotone: they tried to keep up with Inter on Sunday thanks to the first goals in Serie A of Niccolò Zanellato and Vladimir Golemic, but they ultimately ended up being overwhelmed. Junior Messias showed up with an assist, his first one, while he has found the target five times. Emmanuel Riviere is taking playing time away from Simy, but neither has been very prolific or really dangerous. Given the role, it is unlikely that Zanellato will turn into a fantasy weapon: in the midfield Salvatore Molina (one goal, four assists) and Milos Vulic surely have more value, while left-back Arkadiusz Reca (one goal and five helpers) has been a valuable reference point on the flank. Continue reading

Serie A Fantasy Preview – Round 15 – Top Matches

INTER-CROTONE

Inter: Lautaro Martinez snapped out of his scoring slump against Verona, bagging a lovely volley and moving to six goals in Serie A in the season. He has been streaky one way or the other. It was a rare game where Romelu Lukaku (11 goals) did not find the target, while Achraf Hakimi dished his fourth assist and he has been en fuego in the recent matches. Marcelo Brozovic picked up a helper as well on the Milan Skriniar goal, while Ivan Perisic did not a whole lot despite playing in a more offensive role than usual. With Arturo Vidal now fully healthy, that tactical solution probably will not be presented again and in any case the Croatian international has not showed well enough to be an option. Nicolò Barella has been pretty quiet recently but he too has four assists in the season, but his activity in the final third depends on how the midfield is composed. Stefano Sensi and Ashley Young are secondary options.

Recommended picks: Lukaku, Martinez, Hakimi. Continue reading

Henrikh Mkhitaryan’s rebirth to propel Roma back into the Champions League

Since assuming the reins in 2019, Paulo Fonseca has wasted no time implementing his footballing philosophy in the nation’s capital. The veteran tactician has proven to be a willing learner since making the switch to Italian football, switching from his preferred 4-3-3 into a more fluid 3-4-2-1. Henrikh Mkhitaryan has arguably been the biggest benefactor of the formation change, establishing himself as one of Serie A’s deadliest creative threats.

The Armenian international is off to one of the best starts to a season in recent memory, registering seven goals and six assists in 14 appearances. Mkhitaryan has combined wonderfully with Edin Dzeko and Pedro up top, interchanging freely in the final third. The former Arsenal man has excelled with his newfound freedom and has since led the Giallorossi into third place heading into 2021.

Roma has failed to qualify for the last two editions of the Champions League and will be eager to make their return to Europe’s elite competition. Beyond the prestige that comes with the competition, Champions League qualification would represent more funds to bolster the side. Mkhitaryan’s rebirth offers a cause for excitement in the nation’s capital and could propel Roma back into the conversation alongside Europe’s elite.

The 31-year-old initially broke onto the scene back in 2016 in Germany with Borussia Dortmund, emerging as an elite attacking midfielder under Jurgen Klopp. Mkhitaryan finished the season with 11 goals and 15 assists in 28 starts, prompting interest from England’s giants. The Armenian international eventually made the move to Manchester United, where he struggled to replicate his past exploits. Simply put, English football did not suit Mkhitaryan’s skillset.

Mkhitaryan later moved to Arsenal in hopes of reviving his career, but once again, failed to prove his worth in London. His woes in England meant he was available on the cheap, with Roma swooping in for his signature, securing him on a loan deal. The former Manchester United man impressed on his loan, scoring nine goals and recording five assists in 16 appearances. The decision to trigger their option for him proved to be an easy one for Roma.

The switch to Italian football has since helped Mkhitaryan get his career back on track and show glimpses of his past form. The Armenian international is currently on pace to beat his breakout season with Dortmund and surpass his personal best for goals and assists. Beyond his impressive numbers, Mkhitaryan makes Roma tick in the final third.

The 31-year-old is always looking to dictate play in possession and regularly looks to take on his man. His connection with Dzeko has made for one of Italy’s most intriguing strike partnerships this season, with the Giallorossi netting 31 goals already on the season. Given both their experience, expect Roma to continue their run of form heading into 2021.

Fonseca’s men open up the new year against Sampdoria and Crotone, but they can’t get too comfortable. After all, mouth-watering clashes against Inter and Lazio await them in the space of five days, wrapping up an enthralling month of January. With Mkhitaryan firing on all cylinders, the Italian giants will like their chances.

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Fantasy Serie A’s top performers heading into 2021

The Serie A season is temporarily on hold heading into 2021 for the holiday season but has not disappointed thus far. Milan has picked up from exactly where they left off last year, sitting in first place, while Antonio Conte’s Inter has since emerged as legitimate title contenders. Juventus has struggled in the early goings of the Andrea Pirlo era, drawing six of their 13 games thus far.

As the new year approaches, let us have a look at Serie A’s top performers after 14 matchdays. Here are your top five Fantasy Serie A performers:

1) Henrikh Mkhitaryan (Roma) – 94 points. 

The 31-year-old has been in sensational form this season, helping Roma throw its name in the race for top four. Mkhitaryan has hit the ground running in the early goings of the new season, registering seven goals and six assists in 14 appearances for the Giallorossi. Paulo Fonseca’s men currently sit in third place going into 2021 and will rely on the Armenian international to lead them into an unlikely title race. As of right now, Mkhitaryan is Fantasy Serie A’s top performer with 94 points. At 4.5 million euros, there is no reason why the Roma man isn’t on your team.

2) Romelu Lukaku (Inter) – 78 points.

The Belgian international has been the driving force behind Inter’s title race early on, netting eight goals in 11 appearances for the Nerazzurri. Inter has only lost one game this season and is currently riding a ten-game unbeaten streak going into 2021. Antonio Conte’s men have maintained the pace atop the table due to their impressive run of form, sitting just one point behind Milan. If Inter will successfully overtake their fierce rivals, Lukaku will need to be firing from all cylinders. His 78 points are good enough for second place in our top fantacalcio performers thus far and should only add to his impressive tally heading into the new year.

3) Theo Hernandez (Milan) – 75 points.

The former Real Madrid man has taken the next step in his career since making the move to Italy, establishing himself as one of football’s elite fullbacks. Hernandez has picked up some crucial goals along the way, including a brace in Milan’s come-from-behind draw against Parma and a last-gasp winner in the Rossoneri’s most-recent triumph over Lazio. The 23-year-old has proven to be one of Milan’s most creative outlets in the final third, adding three assists to his four goals. Stefano Pioli’s men have since emerged as title contenders due to their recent form but will face stiff competition heading into the new year.

4) Roberto Soriano (Bologna) – 74 points.

The Bologna man is a surprise inclusion on this list but has been in top form this season. Soriano has been extremely productive for Sinisa Mihajlovic’s men, netting six goals and four assists. While being the side’s designated penalty-taker helps, Soriano’s numbers make him an intriguing choice for your fantasy Serie A sides. His good form has since prompted Roberto Mancini to call him up to the Italian national team, rewarding his positive performances. Bologna has struggled in recent weeks, failing to win in their last five games, but if they want to turn it around, Soriano will need to be at the heart of their turnaround.

5) Joao Pedro (Cagliari) – 74 points.

Joao Pedro burst onto the scene in Italy last season, scoring 18 goals, and has not slowed down under Eusebio Di Francesco. The Brazilian been his typical efficient self in front of goal, registering eight goals in 14 appearances. Joao Pedro has combined to devastating effect with Giovanni Simeone and will be hoping to lead Cagliari into the race for European football. While they may sit closer to the relegation zone, the Sardegna-based outfit possesses enough firepower to turn their fortunes around.

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