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Serie A: Roma’s misery deepens in 4-1 defeat to Napoli

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A roundup of all of Sunday’s action in Italy’s top flight…

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Roma 1-4 Napoli

Napoli won’t be making any challenge to Juventus’ claim as the kings of Serie A this season, but they have unquestionably asserted themselves as Italy’s no. 2 club — exemplified in both their 10-point lead over everyone else, as well as Sunday’s 4-1 dismantling of previously second-best Roma.

It’s been a season to forget for Roma, who up until recently languished barely in the top half of the table. Now seventh, they’re closer in points to 14th place (15 points ahead) than they are to second-place Napoli (16 points back).

Sunday showed exactly why Claudio Ranieri‘s side sits where it does.

It was 1-0 to Napoli with fewer than two full minutes on the clock, courtesy of Arkadiusz Milik. Roma held their own the rest of the first half and pulled back to level terms in first-half stoppage time.

The floodgates, however, opened up in the second half, as Dries Merten (50th minute), Simone Verdi (54th) and Amin Younes (81st) blew the game wide open piled on the misery.

Napoli trail Juve by 15 points, while Roma

Elsewhere in Serie A

Inter Milan 0-1 Lazio
Parma 1-3 Atalanta
Fiorentina 1-1 Torino
Bologna 2-1 Sassuolo
Frosinone 0-1 SPAL

Pallotta perplexed at Monchi’s departure, said director had no ‘Plan B’

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AS Roma owner Jim Pallotta is set for a much different April than his previous one.

It was about 11 months ago that the American businessman was swimming in a Roman fountain following an upset of Barcelona in the UEFA Champions League.

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Now, he’s fired coach Eusebio Di Francesco and watched as sporting director Monchi left his position for a spot back home at Sevilla.

And the latter part has him perplexed, especially as Monchi used his departure to say that Pallotta wanted to opposite of his sporting director.

Pallotta has taken the opportunity to explain his feelings via the Roma web site.

“In November, when our season was going from bad to worse and everyone could see that the coach was struggling to get a reaction out of the players, I asked Monchi for his Plan B should things continue to get worse. He had sole responsibility for football operations at Roma but he didn’t have a Plan B. That was November. He said his Plan B was just to keep doing the same as Plan A.

“So, if I read or listen to the radio interviews he’s giving where he says that the idea of the ownership was different to his and that is why he left, please let me know what Monchi wanted to do differently? He asked me to trust him and let him do it his way. We gave him complete control and now we have more injuries than we’ve ever had and are in danger of missing out on finishing in the Top 3 for the first time since 2014.”

Also notable, as Claudio Ranieri shepherds Roma through life without a permanent manager, are reports that Chelsea boss Maurizio Sarri is Pallotta’s preferred next-in-line.

Calcio Mercato says Roma would offer the embattled Chelsea boss a path back to Serie A, where he shown with Napoli before being publicly courted by the Stamford Bridge set.

Roma is four points behind Milan and six back of third-place Inter, and is a Lazio win away from sitting sixth. I Lupi was stunned by Porto in the Champions League, and waxed by Fiorentina in the Italian Cup.

Napoli, Inter, and Juventus are still on Roma’s fixture list with 10 matches to play.

Claudio Ranieri calls Roma ‘not a team’ after loss to SPAL

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Roma suffered a 2-1 road loss to SPAL, and new manager Claudio Ranieri reacted strongly to the possibility that the club will miss out on Champions League qualification next season.

The Italian stated after the game that Roma “played against a team and we were not a team. Effort without organization is not enough.”

Ranieri did not stop there. He eviscerated his player, saying their desire did not match what the game required, and that the players were unable to keep up with SPAL’s effort level, with the home side fighting relegation.

“We lost practically every duel, especially the ones played to feet, and you could see their desperation,” Ranieri said. “SPAL then tried to stall and waste time in the second half, which I fully understand in their circumstances. There are some players who don’t have these characteristics, others are lacking confidence at the moment, but between the two sides, SPAL were certainly more determined.”

Roma out-shot the home side 16-10, but each team finished with four on target. Diego Perotti scored for the visitors in the 55th minute to level things out, but just four minutes later SPAL restored its lead as Juan Jesus committed a foul in the area and Andrea Petagna buried the effort.

After the poor effort, Ranieri said his players could face the axe if they don’t improve. “We need to be more determined, more of a team and also improve our tactics, because we ran hard, but with no real reasoning and that’s not good enough. If Roma go into the Champions League, that is one thing. If they don’t, then quite a few will get a change of scenery. I’ve told the lads since the first day, they have to prove themselves.”

Roma sits three points back of a Champions League place in fifth, but with the loss all four teams above them now have a game in hand as well.

Ranieri victorious in his first game back in charge of Roma

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ROME (AP) Claudio Ranieri won his first game back in charge at Roma but it was far from comfortable.

Stephan El Shaarawy and Patrik Schick scored in the first half, and relegation-threatened Empoli’s late equalizer was disallowed on video review as Roma held on to win 2-1 on Monday.

Captain Alessandro Florenzi was sent off 10 minutes from time – on his 28th birthday – following a second booking, and Empoli’s Rade Krunic almost made the advantage count before the video assistant referee determined the ball hit Dimitri Oberlin in the arm just before the goal.

“The first match is over, and the best thing is the result,” Ranieri said. “We have to work a lot, but we will always score sooner or later. We have to work instead on staying focused in order not to concede. It’s not possible that we’re letting in all these goals.

“These 90 minutes hasn’t made me feel calmer, but I’m focused and positive.”

Roma moved three points behind fourth-place Inter Milan, with the top four from Serie A qualifying for the Champions League. Empoli remained a point above the relegation zone.

Ranieri was appointed as interim coach on Friday, a day after Roma fired Eusebio Di Francesco following elimination from the Champions League and a derby defeat to Lazio. In charge of Roma from 2009-11, Ranieri was fired by Fulham of the Premier League on Feb. 28.

His second spell got off to a good start. El Shaarawy fired Roma in front in the ninth minute when he curled a stunning effort into the top right corner, but Empoli leveled in somewhat comical fashion three minutes later as Juan Jesus headed the ball into his own net under very little pressure.

Empoli almost immediately scored a second, but Manuel Pasqual’s free kick bounced off the top left corner of the goal.

Roma took the lead again in the 33rd minute as Florenzi floated in a free kick from outside the right side of the penalty area and Schick headed it into the bottom left corner.

Empoli dominated as Roma’s task was made harder by the list of players missing: Daniele De Rossi, Kostas Manolas, Lorenzo Pellegrini and Cengiz Under were all injured, and Edin Dzeko, Federico Fazio and Aleksandar Kolarov were suspended.

“It was a difficult match without many men seeing that the leaders were out – those who play 90 minutes, players who give a sense of direction to the play and the team,” Ranieri said.

“I knew it would be difficult and I have to congratulate the team, which always remained compact even when we went down to 10 men.”

Reports: Monchi to depart Roma after Di Francesco firing

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With the departure of Roma manager Eusebio Di Francesco complete and Claudio Ranieri all but confirmed as his successor, there are rumblings that coveted sporting director Monchi is on his way out as well, and could be headed to the Premier League.

The Spaniard was involved in an altercation with Roma fans at the airport after the club crashed out of the Champions League at the hands of Porto. As the supporters heckled players and coaches, Monchi reportedly yelled back, “In six months I will take on each one of you one by one!” Monchi was forced to issue a half-apology on Instagram, saying he was sorry to those fans at the airport, but claimed “my words were reported incorrectly.”

Many have speculated since the incident that the altercation could prove the end of his time in the Italian capital, and that reports in late February linking him to Arsenal could come to fruition.

According to Italian publication Il Messaggero – a Roman-based newspaper – back on February 25, Monchi is set to leave the club within the next 24 hours and is close to an agreement with English side Arsenal. Spanish tabloid Marca reported the same three days earlier, although they gave Monchi until the end of June – when most European soccer contracts expire – at the Italian club. English publication The Independent claimed in late January that the club is consulting with manager Unai Emery on a replacement for the departed Sven Mislintat who they would like to replace as soon as possible. Emery worked with Monchi at Sevilla for three years, leading to the natural links.

However, now that things are getting heated between Di Francesco’s sudden departure and the incident at the airport, Italian reports claim that Monchi’s departure is imminent and coming soon. Both Corriere dello Sport and Tuttomercatoweb have claimed that the two parties will terminate Monchi’s contract by mutual consent, and Arsenal will ease the process by paying what essentially amounts to a $1.7 million release clause. His current contract runs through June of 2021.

Monchi grew in popularity when he took Sevilla from the Spanish 2nd division and built them into a top-half La Liga side with significant European success. He left Sevilla in 2016 after 16 years at the club, joining Roma and helping them reach the semifinals of the 2017/18 Champions League.