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Roma slips in race for Champions League place

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AS Roma could be in serious trouble in the race for a Champions League race with just a week to go after a 0-0 draw at 10th-placed Sassuolo in heavy rain.

The visitors came close, as Edin Dzeko and Justin Kluivert both found iron, each hitting the post in the second half, while a potential Federico Fazio stoppage time winner was pulled back after Dzeko was ruled offside. Otherwise, the Roma attack offered little up front despite the high stakes of the match.

The draw pegs Roma back after a confidence-boosting win over Juventus the week before and sees their Champions League hopes placed on life support. They currently sit fifth in the table, a point behind fourth-placed Atalanta with all other top-nine teams set to play tomorrow. While Atalanta is forced to visit confirmed champions Juventus in Turin, sixth-placed AC Milan could leap into fifth with a win over relegated Frosinone.

Claudio Ranieri took over Roma in early March with the club in fifth, and he has been unable to resurrect their season to the club’s lofty standards. A brutal stretch in March saw the club lose three of four, and while they haven’t lost in the eight league matches since, the four draws in that span have been lethal. Roma has competed in the Champions League each of the last five seasons, reaching the knockout stage in three of the last four.

The draw completes a brutal week for the club which announced days ago that team legend Daniele de Rossi would depart at age 35 after 15 seasons with Roma.

De Rossi to leave AS Roma after 18 years

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Another chapter will close this summer as an AS Roma legend bids farewell.

The Italian club announced on its website that club legend and captain, Daniele De Rossi, will leave the club this summer at the age of 35. De Rossi is still looking to continue his club career, but AS Roma has decided not to offer him a new contract.

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“For 18 years, Daniele has been the beating heart of AS Roma’s team,” club president Jim Pallotta said in a statement. “From his debut in 2001 to taking on the responsibility of the captain’s armband, he always represented the Roma fans on the pitch with pride as he established himself as one of the best midfielders in Europe. We will all shed tears when he pulls on the Giallorossi shirt for the last time against Parma but we respect his desire to prolong his playing career – even if, at almost 36, it will be away from Rome.

“On behalf of everyone at Roma, I’d like to thank Daniele for his incredible dedication to this club and assure him that our doors will remain open for him to return to the club in a new role whenever he wants.”

If former teammate Francesco Totti was the soul of Roma, then De Rossi was certainly the heart. Since making his first team debut in 2001 and Serie A debut in 2003, De Rossi has been a mainstay in the Roma side. Whether against big clubs or small, De Rossi’s determination, drive and tenacity in central midfield was always on display.

Sometimes, he went a little too far. For most Americans, De Rossi is probably best remembered for his vicious elbow on Brian McBride in the 2006 World Cup, during the U.S. Men’s National Team’s 1-1 draw with Italy. After sitting out the next match, De Rossi played a key role on the way to Italy winning the World Cup.

Unfortunately for De Rossi, he’ll leave Roma without winning a Serie A title. having played in an era of AC Milan, Inter Milan and then Juventus dominance in the league. Roma did win two Coppas Italia with De Rossi, in 2007 and 2008. However, like Steven Gerrard, De Rossi leaves as a legend without having lifted league silverware.

Like Totti, a one-club man, De Rossi made 615 first team appearances in all competitions for Roma, scoring 63 goals during his 18-years with the club.

What’s next for De Rossi? Not even he knows, but he could head to another club in Italy, perhaps move to England for one last season, similar to Estaban Cambiasso’s time at Leicester City, or move to the Middle East, East Asia or the U.S. However, it’s unlikely that an MLS club would pay top dollar for De Rossi at this stage of his career, where injuries have kept him off the field for long stretches.

“I have not yet decided where I will play, but I feel like a footballer and I want to continue playing,” De Rossi said at a press conference. “I have never regretted having dedicated my career to Rome.”

Serie A: Juventus secures Scudetto, AC Milan and Roma both slip

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A massive day in the jam packed Serie A Champions League race nearly saw AS Roma take over the fourth spot in the table from AC Milan, but Inter came to the rescue to save their rivals’ coveted spot.

AC Milan held the fourth and final Champions League spot coming into the day, but slipped with a 1-1 draw at 14th placed Parma, only able to put three of its 15 shots on target and conceding an 87th minute on a free-kick by Bruno Alves that left Gianluigi Donnarumma completely frozen, unable to reach his near post.

That cancelled out a 69th minute header by Samu Castillejo at the near post that perfectly deflected across the face of goal and under the crossbar into the back of the net. Otherwise, however, AC Milan was toothless in the attack. They completed just three of 11 attempted one-on-one take-ons and only seven of their 110 completed attacking-third passes were in the penalty area.

With the door open, Roma looked to have taken advantage with an early lead over third-placed Inter. Stephan El Shaarawy opened the scoring 14 minutes in, a beautiful curling right-footed effort from well outside the box that found the inside of the far post. It stayed that way past halftime but Inter struck back through a diving header by Ivan Perisic at the back post just past the hour mark. The scoreline remained 1-1 the rest of the way, leaving Roma still out of the top four, a single point back of AC Milan with Atalanta and Torino two behind Roma.

While a formality for some time now, Juventus took care of struggling Fiorentina 2-1 at home in comeback fashion thanks to an own-goal from German Pezzella. That confirmed their eighth straight Serie A title, leading by 20 points over Napoli with five matches to go. Juve fell behind in the ninth minute when a scrum in front of net saw the ball squirt out to Nikola Milenkovic for an easy finish into an open net. Juve weathered Fiorentina hitting the post before Alex Sandro leveled things up prior to halftime with a fabulous near-post header from an incredibly difficult angle.

Elsewhere, Lazio fell at home to Chievo Verona, effectively dropping them out of the crowded Champions League race. Sergej Milinkovic-Savic was sent off in the 34th minute for a moment of petulance, kicking out at Mariusz Stepinski. That left Lazio with a personnel disadvantage for nearly an hour, and they didn’t last long, conceding twice in quick succession after halftime to Emanuel Vignato and Perparim Hetemaj who put Chievo 2-0 up by the 51st minute. Vignato’s featured a silky move just outside the top of the box, while Hetemaj headed home the eventual winner when Adam Marusic horribly misjudged a Fabio Depaoli cross. The loss for Lazio leaves them in ninth place on 52 points, five points back of fourth.

Torino remained in the hunt for a European place after a 1-0 road win at Genoa, with Cristian Ansaldi finding the back of the net in the 58th minute thanks to a wonderful late run, found on a lay-off after great hold-up play from Alex Berenguer at the top of the box. Torino goalkeeper Salvatore Sirigu also chipped in with four saves, including a big one just after the half-hour mark diving down to his right to stop a header.

Udinese picked up a valuable point in the relegation battle in a 1-1 draw with Sassuolo thanks to an 80th minute own-goal by Pol Lirola that leveled the score late. Still, after holding Sassuolo to just two shots on target, Udinese will be disappointed not to put more distance between them and 18th placed Empoli just four points back.

Empoli remained on 29 points after falling 4-2 to SPAL despite holding a 57%-43% possessional advantage throughout the match. They allowed seven shots on target by SPAL leading to a brace from Andrea Petagna plus goals from Sergio Floccari and Mirco Antenucci.

De Rossi pulls Roma within a point of Champions League play

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It hasn’t been pretty for AS Roma of late, but somehow they’re still right in the thick of things.

Daniele De Rossi grabbed a 75th minute goal to lead Roma past Sampdoria 1-0 at Stadio Luigi Ferraris, pulling Roma within just a point of the top four.

Well before the late goal, goalkeeper Antonio Mirante was required in the 24th minute to stop a fabulous strike by Gregoire Defrel destined for the underside of the crossbar. That was one of just two shots on target for the hosts, who held 64% possession and ripped off 18 efforts but couldn’t find the net.

With 15 minutes remaining, De Rossi rose high to meet a corner, meeting it with his head and tucking the effort inside the far post for the lead. The headed ball was just out of reach of Edin Dzeko, but thankfully for Roma it snuck past goalkeeper Emil Audero as well. The goal was not just the winner for Roma, but also a big moment for De Rossi as well, as the 35-year-old bagged his first league goal of his injury-plagued season.

Sampdoria thrust forward in stoppage time looking for a late equalizer, and there was a penalty shout as Fabio Quagliarella went down under heavy pressure from substitute Juan Jesus, but replays showed little actual contact and the referee waved off the shout.

The victory for Roma saw them end a three-match winless run and pull within a single point of AC Milan in the final Champions League place. Roma also sits level with Atalanta on points, and while they still have a game in hand, that takes place Sunday with a visit to 3rd placed Inter.

Report: Mourinho in contact with Inter and Roma

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According to a report by Sky Sports Italia, former Manchester United manager Jose Mourinho has been in contact with Italian clubs Roma and Inter Milan about managing next season.

Mourinho most notably spent time at Inter between 2008 and 2010 where he won the treble in his second season before leaving to join Real Madrid.

Both clubs have managers currently in place, but neither is terribly secure in their position. Inter manager Luciano Spalletti has come under fire for his handling of the Mauro Icardi situation, and while the player has taken much of the public blame, Spalletti left Icardi out of the matchday squad this past weekend, seen as a mishandling of the former captain’s return. Meanwhile, Roma boss Claudio Ranier, hired just a few weeks ago to replace the fired Eusebio Di Francesco, has been thus far unable to engineer a return to form to help the club challenge for a Champions League place.

According to another report in the Italian tabloids, Mourinho would be especially willing to return to Inter, where he would take a sort of “hometown discount” lowering his wage demands from $11 million to $9 million per year. However, Inter CEO Beppe Marotta is reportedly leaning towards Antonio Conte as another possibility.

The Sky Sports Italia report claims that while Roma has spoken to Mourinho over the phone, not much else in the way of negotiations has progressed.

Since his dismissal at Manchester United, Mourinho has worked as an analyst on television, employed mostly in Russia. There has been some speculation that Mourinho could also be a candidate for Bayern Munich in the event the German club decides to part ways with Niko Kovac.