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Roma still struggling ahead of key AC Milan match

NEWS
News
31 Jan 2019, 23:55 IST
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MILAN (AP) — Roma sporting director Monchi had a simple message to fans after the team's humiliating 7-1 defeat at Fiorentina in the Italian Cup quarterfinals on Wednesday.

"Sorry, sorry, sorry," he said.

The apology wasn't enough for a group of around 30 Roma fans, who waited for the team to return from Florence to hurl objects and insults at them.

The players needed police help to drive out of the training ground and there was heightened security when they returned there on Thursday ahead of Sunday's crunch match against AC Milan.

Roma has struggled this campaign after selling the backbone of its squad in the offseason, but it had seemed to have turned a corner with four wins in its past five matches.

However, there were alarming signs already at the weekend when the Giallorossi let slip a three-goal lead and a chance to move into the Champions League places in a 3-3 draw at Atalanta.

"The last five or six games, apart from the second half in Atalanta, we were growing as a group," Monchi said. "(On Wednesday) we played terribly. The players wanted to do well but unfortunately they were not able to do that.

"We have tried everything (to turn things around). I think that right now, the players need support — but I don't think anyone is calm or content after today."

Taking advantage of big sales has always been the mantra for Monchi, who Roma President James Pallotta lured from the Spanish league in 2017 after 17 years in the same position at Sevilla.

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One of his first big moves was the sale of Mohamed Salah to Liverpool that June but Roma nevertheless reached the Champions League semifinals and Monchi said he didn't plan on another big sale last offseason.

But warrior-like midfielder Radja Nainggolan was sent to rival Inter Milan for 38 million euros, prized goalkeeper Alisson went to Liverpool for more than 70 million euros, and midfield stalwart Kevin Strootman rejoined former Roma coach Rudi Garcia at Marseille for 25 million euros.

Roma has looked lost at times without its key players and coach Eusebio Di Francesco has been under pressure all season, even after his side ended a five-match winless run in December.

"I am the one in charge. How could I not feel responsible?" Di Francesco said after Wednesday's match. "When the team was reborn and was playing well, though, the coach was the same one. I question myself and I struggle to come up with clear answers. When others thought that the team had healed I always said that we still had work to do — and that's still the feeling."

The team needs to recover quickly for Sunday's match at home to AC Milan, which currently occupies fourth place in Serie A and the final qualifying spot for the Champions League.

Roma hasn't finished out of the top three since 2013 but it is six points behind third-place Inter Milan. It is one below Milan.

Di Francesco has said he won't resign but he could be forced out if there is another poor performance at the Stadio Olimpico, especially with a number of matches coming up against relegation contenders which could help a new coach settle in.

Roma is also in the Champions League round of 16, where it will face Porto.

Former Juventus and Italy coach Antonio Conte is out of a job since being fired by Chelsea and he said on Thursday that he is "waiting to know my next destination" although he added that he has not been contacted by any Italian club.

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