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Roma fires Eusebio Di Francesco amidst Ranieri reports

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AS Roma has fired manager Eusebio Di Francesco in the wake of a UEFA Champions League exit and league loss to rivals Lazio.

[ MORE: 2nd leg recap ]

“On behalf of myself and everyone at AS Roma, I’d like to thank Eusebio for his work and his commitment,” said Roma chairman Jim Pallotta. “Since returning to the club, Eusebio has always acted professionally and put the club’s needs ahead of his own. We all wish him well for the future.”

Di Francesco led Roma to a third-place finish last season and a berth in the UEFA Champions League semifinals. This year, i Lupi is in a battle for third and exited the UCL in the Round of 16, falling to Porto on Wednesday.

It’s a bit harsh on the former Roma player, who took over a club that sold Mohamed Salah and Antonio Rudiger and watched as Alisson Becker and Radja Nainngolan were sold this summer.

Claudio Ranieri is a rumored replacement for Di Francesco.

Reports: Roma seeks Ranieri to replace Di Francesco

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AS Roma is taking a “What have you done for me lately?” approach to its managerial position after losing to Porto in the UEFA Champions League Round of 16.

[ MORE: 2nd leg recap ]

A semifinalist one season ago, Eusebio Di Francesco will reportedly be fired by i Lupi after coughing up a 2-1 first leg lead in Portugal on Thursday.

And a former Premier League champion may be first in line to replace him.

Claudio Ranieri is the favorite to replace Di Francesco, and there’s talk that a managerial change could happen very soon despite some pleas to keep the current manager until the end of the Serie A season.

Cristian Panucci and Roberto Donadoni are also named as potential successors to Di Francesco.

Roma sold Alisson Becker, Radja Nainngolan, and Kevin Strootman last summer, and Mohamed Salah, Antonio Rudiger, and Leandro Paredes the prior summer.

Di Francesco led a 3rd place Serie A run last season, losing in the Coppa Italia Round of 16, and the UCL semifinals v. Liverpool. This season, Roma is again battling for third, and lost in the Coppa’s quarterfinals, and UCL Round of 16.

Ranieri was fired by Fulham last month as the Premier League outfit labors in the relegation zone, and served in the same position at Nantes after leading Leicester City to its amazing PL title.

He’s played and managed Roma, leading a Serie A title push for the club in 2010 (ultimately falling short to Inter Milan).

The firing would be harsh on Di Francesco, who came within an extra time penalty of penalty kicks and another UCL quarterfinal. He would become one of the top available managers on the market.

Roma boss Di Francesco worried after late win

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Edin Dzeko saved Roma in the 95th minute, sealing a 3-2 win over Frosinone and moving the club back to within a point of a Champions League place. Roma manager Eusebio Di Francesco wasn’t having it.

“We can’t keep getting away with this type of performance,” Di Francesco said to the media after the game.

[ MORE: Serie A recap as Roma and Torino win ]

Despite its solid league position down the stretch of the season, the club has looked shaky at times. On Saturday, the defense put forth a calamitous performance at the back filled with mistakes, bad passes, poor marking, and questionable decision-making. The game was tied 2-2 for most of the second half with Roma’s relegation-threatened opponents nearly pulling out a win if it wasn’t for goalkeeper Robin Olsen’s spectacular save.

“The positive from this evening is that we won, but I do hope he can start to play much better football from now on,” Di Francesco said. “The second goal came from our own set play and our positioning was off, Daniele De Rossi misread the situation.”

“Frosinone are scrapping for every point to secure safety and I know what that is like. We made too many mistakes and should’ve approached the game better, as we risked a draw or even a defeat. We always find a way to make life more complicated for ourselves with distractions.”

Frosinone’s first goal came from a mistake by Steven N’Zonzi, whose back-pass to no one was intercepted by Camillo Ciano who scored despite a great save attempt by Olsen. The hosts scored their second on the break as De Rossi and Aleksandr Kolarov were torn apart on the break despite a one-on-two advantage for the defenders.

“We had the game in hand and should’ve finished it off rather than just tried to control it. We’ve shown over the season that we are a team capable of scoring goals, but also of conceding them. We’ve got to improve.”

Despite the poor defensive performance, the attack played spectacular at times, with Stephan El Shaarawy the star and Dzeko a force. Dzeko was on hand to bundle in the winner five minutes into stoppage time as El Shaarawy lofted a short cross over a defender and into the chest of the Bosnian striker.

Roma confines players to training ground after poor results

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Reports have surfaced that Italian club AS Roma has taken the rare step of confining its players to the training ground for the next few days after a run of poor results has left the side seventh in the Serie A table.

On Saturday, Roma held a 2-0 lead over 13th-placed Cagliari and coughed up that lead, conceding a 95th minute equalizer despite seeing the opponents reduced to just nine men two minutes prior.

According to both Sky Italia and Gianluca di Marzio, and later confirmed by Roma Radio, the club has decided to keep all players locked in the training ground for a “training retreat” through Wednesday’s Champions League fixture against Victoria Plzen. The reports state the measure is less of a concentration on the midweek fixture and more of a strictly punitive measure, as the Champions League match is meaningless, having already confirmed a spot in the knockout stage.

The reports also discuss the job security of manager Eusebio Di Francesco, with the 49-year-old reportedly safe for now, although he apparently does appear to be drawing the ire of president Jim Palotta, while currently maintaining the backing of highly regarded sporting director Monchi.

Di Francesco was furious with his team after the match on Saturday, throwing the players under the bus for mistakes on the field, and suggesting they ignored his instructions. “My team tried to kill the game off for 70 minutes and I get angry when I see some of the mistakes we make,” he told the official Roma website after the match, “when players make the wrong choice and go for goal instead of passing to a team-mate. That leads to situations like this. It’s absurd. I don’t even want to talk about tactics. We had some highly experienced players out there today who should never concede a goal like that.”

The boss then suggested he may have to get harsh on the players, possibly foreshadowing the decision to hold the retreat. “We’ve used the carrot and the stick already this season,” Di Francesco said. “I didn’t have many options today. I had lots of kids on the bench plus [Javier] Pastore and [Diego] Perotti, who aren’t at their best. When Cagliari equalized we had five experienced defenders on the pitch. Sometimes there’s little for the coach to explain. I do have to take responsibility, though. I’m absolutely gutted about this result. It was in our hands. It was an absurd game: you can’t concede an equalizer in the last 30 seconds playing 11 v nine.”

Roma has won just once in its last seven Serie A matches, with losses to bottom-half sides SPAL and Udinese in that span as well. That, coupled with a similar four-match winless run earlier in the season, has left the club in a precarious position for Champions League qualification next season, sitting four points back of fourth-placed AC Milan and eight behind third-placed Inter.

De Rossi inspired for electric Serie A race

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When we last spoke with Daniele De Rossi, he was cautiously optimistic that his club — and we very much mean his club — AS Roma was charting a path toward greatness.

The one-club man, 34, captained La Lupa to its first UEFA Champions League semifinal berth in three decades, and also led Roma to third place in Serie A.

[ MORE: Wolves set to add Moutinho ]

This summer, De Rossi remains cautious about over-promising anything, but the band has mostly stayed together. Alisson and Radja Nainngolan have left, but anyone else who played 1000-plus minutes is still there and the club also bought Justin Kluivert (Ajax) and Javier Pastore (PSG).

Now seven games from 600 appearances with Roma, De Rossi renewed acquaintances with PST ahead of the club’s International Champions Cup matches talking about the season that was, Juventus adding Ronaldo, and missing out the World Cup.

Roma plays Tottenham in San Diego on Wednesday before traveling to Arlington for a July 31 date with Barcelona. I Lupi then meet Real Madrid on Aug. 7 in East Rutherford, New Jersey.

ProSoccerTalk: Daniele, when we spoke last year you were hesitant to declare AS Roma a contender given all the new pieces but had a good feeling about the club. Given how it came together, is that hope tank a bit fuller?

Daniele De Rossi: “I’m pretty confident with this team, with the coach, because it’s his second year and everything will probably easier because he is not starting from the beginning. He can count on a base of team, players who already know what he wants. It’s going to be easier to insert young players in the team.”

PST: What struck us about the manager (Eusebio Di Francesco) is how he was very calculated with how to respond to your side whether you had won 3-0 over Barcelona or fallen to Shakhtar in the first leg of a Champions League tie. It seems he carries some of the same characteristics as a coach that you do as a player. Did he impress you as a manager?

DDR: “Yes, and I’ve known him for a long time. I met him when I was 18 and he’s always been like this. Even as a player, he wanted everything. He wanted to do better as a player, and now as a coach. The job is different, full of pressure, but he’s a winner in his mentality and he’s trying to get it to the team as well.”

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PST: You’ve spoken of Roma as a club and Rome as a city as classics, and that the team can reflect that. It seemed last year’s UCL run had the area buzzing.

DDR: “Last year we showed all the world what a city and a team like ours can do. We did something incredible and probably because of our talent, because of our organization, and even because it’s a club that the fans trusted us. Everything went very good. Even the relationship between us and the fans was something that we talked about last year. It’s something we found during the season at every step, much more than before.”

PST: Has that raised expectations for you?

DDR: (laughing) “Eighteen years that I’m hoping and trying to bring something to Rome. Very easy to say but very hard to get. We will try to do something unbelievable because the teams that reached the first and second position are even better than last year.

“Juventus bought one of the best players in football history and this is a sign. They are trying to make their team better but we are trying to do the same. Nothing in football is written. Even the last World Cup showed that things can go in different ways than you thought before a match, league, or tournament begins. That’s what we think, we hope.

“We are a good team. We are close to them. They are trying to win Champions League and make a big hole between them and the other teams, but we’re trying to fill it up.”

PST: Last year you showed the capability to beat teams like Barcelona and Liverpool by multiple goals, but also to find a way to win 1-0 when needed. Roma conceded just 28 times in the league, and that was in Di Francesco’s first season. Does this mean we may see even more variety in terms of tactics and approaches?

DDR: “The time can help the team to understand better, not just our coach but every coach needs time. We hope that what happened last year, so many matches where we scored a lot of goals but sometimes conceded as well. We tried to become a more balanced team, and it’s something you can achieve with more experience. It’s going to be better from this side, but it’s never written. We’re not gonna start from the semifinal of the Champions League, or third place in Serie A. We start on zero points, the same as Cagliari or Juventus.”

Daniele De Rossi of AS Roma celebrates his sides victory with Alessandro Florenzi (Photo by Michael Regan/Getty Images)

PST: You mentioned the World Cup earlier. Watching the tournament from home was something new for both you and Italy. What did you make of it?

DDR: “It’s been a weird tournament because a lot of teams we thought could reach the semifinals did not. Not because of them, but because the whole world is improving, the way to play football, the way to look and study football. Even the smallest team in the world, it’s not as 15-20 years ago where you can play against Panama and Costa Rica, and score 10 goals every match. Teams are going to be smarter than before because everybody sees a lot of football, with software and the Internet. Even the coaches are smarter than before. That’s some of the problems like Argentina or Brazil found in the last World Cup. At the end a big, big team still won the World Cup. It’s not so easy for every team.”

PST: So there’s hope for United States?

DDR: (laughing) “It’s not so easy for them as well, but I can’t talk because I’m on the same side as the U.S., the other side of the TV I’m watching the World Cup and it’s so sad.”

Roma at the ICC

Wednesday: vs. Tottenham Hotspur (San Diego)

July 31: vs. Barcelona (Arlington)

Aug. 7: vs. Real Madrid (East Rutherford)