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Football | Italy

Pablo Osvaldo © Reuters

No end to Roma's transition period

AS Roma fans may be wondering how much longer their team will be in a so-called transitional period after club president James Pallotta used the dreaded word again this week.

The decision to sack coach Zdenek Zeman two weeks ago failed to stop the rot as they lost 3-1 to Sampdoria in their first game under his replacement Aurelio Andreazzoli and they now face the daunting task of taking on Serie A leaders Juventus on Saturday.

Roma fans had accepted that last season would be transitional under Spaniard Luis Enrique who was hired as coach by the consortium which took over the club in 2011 and was expected to imitate Barcelona's style.

However, the Spaniard quit in the summer and Roma then opted for old romantic Zdenek Zeman, a Czech-born coach known for throwing caution to the wind.

True to Zeman's style, Roma scored freely but also leaked goals at the back, putting everyone's nerves on edge and leading to talk of a U-turn as early as November.

"I don't want another year of transition, I'm tired of that," said stalwart striker Francesco Totti at the time.

"We have to follow Zeman and we will come out of this tunnel."

But a 4-2 home defeat by Catania a fortnight ago was the last straw and the club changed direction again, bringing in Andreazzoli on an interim basis.

Following Sunday's defeat at Sampdoria, which left Roma languishing in ninth place with 34 points, club president James Palotta issued a statement which made it clear that the period of transition was still far from over.

"As I have said on every occasion we are building an organisation and team that will take some time and that Rome can be proud of," he said.

"In these periods of transition, there will always be cases, in hindsight, we could have made different decisions but I don't intent to take those decisions just to satisfy some short-term goals.

"I'm disappointed because we would all like to see us quickly getting the results we expected.

"But, since becoming president seven months ago, I think we have taken steps forward in many aspects to achieve the long-term results and greatness we all want."

He added: "While we are all not happy with our recent results I have complete confidence in our players and entire staff."

Andreazzoli's debut was also marked by controversy when Pablo Osvaldo took and missed a penalty even though Totti was the designated taker.

Osvaldo's car was kicked by angry fans at a training session on Tuesday while Totti was criticised by the media for not forcing his teammate to back down.

"I would like to say sorry to the fans and I certainly didn't want to show any disrespect to Francesco," said Osvaldo later.

Juventus, who have recovered from a minor slump following the winter break, have 55 points at the top, five clear of Napoli, and enjoyed an emphatic 3-0 win at Celtic in the first leg of their Champions League round-of-16 tie on Tuesday.

Napoli are at home to an improving Sampdoria, where speculation already surrounds the future of their 19-year-old Argentine forward Mauro Icardi after his recent goal glut.

Lazio are a further six points adrift in third place and visit lowly Siena.


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