Roma v Juventus: From Championship to Champions League for Ranieri?

Roma's Claudio Ranieri
Claudio Ranieri has faced a tough job in his second spell at Roma, and Juventus won't make his challenge easier

The capital club are streets behind the champions but have the far greater need for points on Sunday, writes Andy Brassell

"Juve haven’t won in two games since clinching the title. They have, however, snatched draws against Inter and Torino – with equalisers by the insatiable Cristiano Ronaldo in both – which greatly inconvenienced their opponents."

What a season this has been for Claudio Ranieri, and what a season it could still be. Parachuted into Fulham in November and dispatched again in February with relegation looming large, he is finishing the season trying to steer his hometown club Roma into the top four of Serie A. Championship to Champions League? It could still happen.

It won't be easy. It has been a torrid season for Roma, from the summer exits of Allison, Radja Nainggolan and Kevin Strootman all the way through to the Champions League last 16 exit against Porto, which precipitated the swift exits of coach Eusebio Di Francesco and sporting director Monchi. The latter was especially unpopular with the club's supporters by way of his transfer dealings, moving on players who were key in the dressing room and popular with supporters, rather than just important on the pitch.

Roma on a run, but still letting points slip away

There are three games left for Roma and Ranieri to meet what would have been seen as the club's bare minimum pre-season; making the Champions League again, having reached the semi-finals last year to be edged out by Liverpool in a thriller. A lot needs to go right for the Giallorossi, who have pulled themselves together a bit since the nadir of humiliating defeats at SPAL and home to Napoli in March. They are unbeaten in their last six, but three of those have been draws - including last week's game at Genoa, in which they conceded a late equaliser and could have succumbed to an even later winner, had Antonio Mirante not saved Toni Sanabria's stoppage-time penalty.

Roma will need to show more certainty on Sunday night when Juventus come to the Olimpico. Unusually for a meeting between the already-crowned champions and a team currently 30 points behind them, Ranieri's side are the favourites, priced at 2.486/4 with Juve at 2.8815/8. The draw, which would do little for Roma's hopes, is available at 3.55. This is a reflection on how much greater Roma's need is than that of their visitors, but it's also an assumption that the champs are happy to coast towards summer with the hard work done.

Juve full of mischief

Granted, Juve haven't won in two games since clinching the title. They have, however, snatched draws against Inter and Torino - with equalisers by the insatiable Cristiano Ronaldo in both - which greatly inconvenienced their opponents. They shouldn't be ruled out of doing the same again on Sunday night.

Massimiliano Allegri does, however, have a large injury list to contend with, with Alex Sandro, Mario Mandzukić and Douglas Costa among the casualties. Roma need every bit of help they can get. They find ways to score, even with Edin Dzeko's disappointing goal return this term (just 8 in Serie A). They have been far from consistent enough to really earn our trust.

Massimiliano Allegri 1280.jpg

Modest Atalanta in pole

This is the moment in which excuses and form have to go out of the window, though. With Atalanta and Milan between them and the prize, Roma almost certainly have to win out and hope for the best. Head-to-head record trumps goal difference in Italy but with both Atalanta-Roma matches finishing in exhilarating 3-3 draws, the far superior goal difference currently enjoyed by Gian Piero Gasperini's side will count. In essence, Roma need to get four points more than Atalanta over the next three games.

It's a tall order, just as Sunday's game is. The red half of Rome will hope for a touch of the vintage Ranieri magic.

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