At one point this season, Serie A looked set for an enthralling title race. Juventus and AS Roma were inseparable until December, firmly engulfed in a battle for the Scudetto. However after a harsh winter, Rudi Garcia’s side are on a slide without immediate end.
The form of Napoli, perhaps in the midst of Rafa Benitez’s final season at the helm, and the likes of Lazio, Sampdoria and Fiorentina means the race for Champions League qualification is hotting up. Roma must turn things around or face the indignity of Thursday nights in the Europa League.
Roma have won just three times this year, twice in the league, having fallen behind Massimiliano Allegri’s Juventus, who already look destined to win a fourth title in a row. With Carlos Tevez and Paul Pogba particularly to the fore, they could even challenge for the Champions League after narrowly beating Borussia Dortmund 2-1 on Tuesday evening.
But after Roma amassed their greatest ever points tally with 85 last season, this term has quickly fallen apart. Their home form has been particularly disappointing, with a recent stalemate against crisis club Parma prompting fury within the Stadio Olympico. A 2-0 defeat to Fiorentina in the Coppa Italia was another evening to remember.
They face Juventus on Sunday evening in what many had been expecting to be a title decider. Now they will enter the game as clear underdogs, knowing a defeat could have huge consequences for their hopes of qualifying for Europe’s top-tier competition. The chasing pack are quickly gaining ground.
Napoli’s 2-0 victory over Sassuolo moved them to within three points of Roma, an impressive feat given how poor they were in the early embers of the season. Benitez will want to bow out on a high, and leading them to a second-place finish, in addition to the Coppa Italia success of a year ago, would see him rendered a success.
Lazio meanwhile have been a surprise package, though still remain five points off third-place. Ravel Morrison was signed on a free transfer last month, but whether or not the troubled talent makes his mark remains to be seen.
Fiorentina are another side that have recovered from a bad start to throw their name into the mix. Vincent Montella may instead choose to prioritise the Europa League, though must beware of the other three teams doing the same. His side face Tottenham Hotspur on Thursday aiming to pip the Premier League side to a place in the last 16.
Even Inter Milan are finally beginning to build momentum under Roberto Mancini. The Italian spent big last month to bring Xherdan Shaqiri, Lukas Podolski and David Santon to the San Siro but the Nerrazzuri still have a long way to go.