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Stuart Harper On May - 18 - 2011

Sette Sempre Unica: Sixth Sense For Roma

The league doesn’t lie; it merely reveals an incontestable truth that Udinese (and heavens forbid Lazio), deserve a tilt at Champions League football - certainly more so than the Giallorossi. Now, and with one game remaining, the question for Roma is whether or not the prospect of Europa Cup football is a blessing or a curse.

On Sunday, Guidolin’s Zebrette exorcised the ghosts of Roma’s last gasp Fruili winner, beating Chievo to remain in pole for that all important fourth place finish. Back in early April, Totti’s brutally cruel goal, the very last kick of the game, appeared to possess a hugely symbolic meaning. But despite serving the Zebrette with a real body blow, Guidolin has all but navigated a path towards Europe’s grandest footballing stage and may be the one who laughs last.

So, while Udinese and Lazio contest the final Champions League football spot, Roma or Juventus will have to settle for sixth place and a Europa Cup adventure. But is sixth a worthy consolation prize or merely an unwelcome distraction to any side lacking discernible depth?

The consensus will point towards the revenue generated by additional games and will see European competition as a means by which to garner attention, the sort that could lure players throughout the summer mercato - but there is a flip side.

Europa Cup involvement meant that the season started for Juventus back in July with a trip to Dublin to play Shamrock Rovers. The combination of additional games and travelling places significant stress on squads and increases the likelihood of fatigue and injury – and in the Europa Cup, well before Serie A starts in earnest.

Take for example Francesco Totti – one could argue that his enforced omission from Coppa Italia duties has helped prolong the form of the now 34-year old. Should Roma secure sixth place then the incumbent coach would inevitably field Totti on the Thursday evening and again on the following Sunday. At some point, something would give.

Thus, an unhurried summer and a season free of fixture congestion and travel sounds sensible for a team of questionable depth. Given the limited rewards offered by Europa football, when compared to the sapping demands, Juventus taking sixth may not be the worst thing to happen to Roma if one takes a longer term view.

Of this season’s European contenders from the peninsula (excluding both Milan teams), only Napoli have managed to salvage a commendable season from the ashes of continental competition – and while Sampdoria are an extreme example of what could go wrong, it goes to show that all that glitters isn’t necessarily gold and Roma must approach the ramifications of sixth place with caution.

While on the theme of ‘what may be’, another week means a fresh round of media speculation revolving around managers and players. The latest managerial contender to be mooted is the current Marseille manger, and former Juventus player and manager, Didier Deschamps. But there is nothing tangible to suggest that reports are meaningful and if anything, should Deschamps return to Italy, Turin seems a more obvious destination should he quit his current club.

Amid all uncertainty, one thing has been made patently clear – the fact that there is no love lost between Jeremy Menez and Vincenzo Montella. According to the Frenchman everything changed when Claudio Ranieri left the capital club and he will assess the future once the season draws to an end. Inevitably, should Montella be afforded a longer-term position, then Menez will leave Rome.

Sadly, Jeremy has used Montella’s appointment and their subsequent clash of personalities as a reason by which to excuse his own form and attitude and frankly, that smacks of a lack of professionalism. There again, is Menez merely following Totti’s lead when capitano fell out of favour with Ranieri (remember the scenes at Sampdoria)?

Clearly, it is imperative Roma find a coach of character, one who commands respect irrespective of whether or not is liked/disliked. It’s been said here before that while Montella has marshalled a disparate Roma admirably well, the grander ramifications of what lies ahead for Roma is beyond the capabilities of l’aeroplanino, certainly at such a formative stage of his managerial career.

And this brings us to the now familiar theme of Carlo Ancelotti. As Chelsea’s season continues to meekly fizzle out, almost every interview sees Ancelotti quizzed about his Stamford Bridge future, to which the tactician has recently reiterated the notion that his fate will be decided this week.

One British bookmaker is actually offering odds on who will be Carlo’s successor, let alone ‘if’ Carlo will be fired - and thus one senses the inevitable axe for the man who most Romanisti crave above any other. Consequently, while Roma’s own season ebbs away with little fanfare, tifosi know that the real fireworks will happen off the pitch and should Carlo’s prophecy prove accurate, the action may start sooner than later.

Stuart Harper

Freelance sports writer covering football, calcio & futbol. A Villa, Roma & Barca fan. Cycling too.

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