MILAN (Reuters) – If AS Roma needed a reminder of their dramatic loss of form over the last two months, then a quick comparison with Sunday’s opponents Juventus will provide it.
In mid-October, Roma were top of Serie A and 11 points clear of defending champions Juventus who were languishing in 12th place after a miserable start to their campaign.
Roma also beat Juventus 3-2 in September and appeared to have banished memories of the previous two seasons when they twice finished second behind Juve and lost three of the four meetings between the pair.
But the two sides go into Sunday’s clash (1945 GMT) with hosts Juventus in second place and seven points ahead of Roma, who have dropped to fifth.
In a dramatic reversal of fortune, Juventus have won their last 10 Serie A matches, putting them firmly back in the race for a fifth successive title, while Roma have managed two wins, six draws and two defeats.
Roma coach Rudi Garcia paid the price when he was sacked and replaced by old favourite Luciano Spalletti but the 56-year-old’s return to the club he coached from 2005 to 2009 failed to provide the spark they had been looking for.
Instead, they stuttered to a 1-1 draw at home to bottom club Verona which again exposed the team’s two main problems, defensive frailty and the poor form of misfiring forward Edin Dzeko.
The Bosnia forward was expected to find Serie A defences easy meat after playing in the Bundesliga and English Premier League, but instead has managed just three goals in 16 appearances.
“When you play for such a big club as Roma you’re going to have quieter spells and it’s important to remember that. It’s what’s happening to Edin,” said Spalletti. “Our team can help him come through this off spell.”
Spalletti was also alarmed by the ease with which Verona, the only winless team after 20 games of the season, created chances against his side.
“There is a lot of work to do,” he said. “We suffered three or four counter-attacks, which is the one thing we were determined would not happen.” The only positive thing he could say about his team was that “at least they were trying.”
Leaders Napoli (44 points), two points clear of Juventus, visit Sampdoria (Sunday 1400) who are back in trouble again after losing their last two games, leaving them 14th and six points clear of the relegation zone.
Third-placed Inter Milan (40), beaten in their last two home games, should be able to muster three points at San Siro as they host relegation-threatened Carpi while fourth-placed Fiorentina (38) badly need a win at home to Torino after losing their last two games.
(Writing by Brian Homewood; editing by Justin Palmer)