Euro Zone: Mourinho fears Roma's unbeaten run

Continuing a series on Europe's title races, Pete Jenson reports on how Ranieri's side have hit a 23-game invincible streak to rise above Inter

Claudio Ranieri has a bit of a reputation in Italy. No, not the one about changing the team each week – that is considered a quality, not a flaw in Serie A. In his homeland he is seen as a manager who can build a teambut cannot win – someone who sows the harvest that another coach ends up reaping. This season that might be about to change.

The man who laid the foundations at Valencia that Rafael Benitez then built on to win two leagues, and who then started the Chelsea revolution only for Jose Mourinho to arrive and finish the job, has the chance to be a league winner himself. All he has to do is hold off the challenge of the "Special One" for five more games.

Roma's incredible charge to the top has seen them go 23 games unbeaten and last weekend they moved one point ahead of Mourinho's Internazionale after beating Atalanta 2-1 while Inter could only draw 2-2 with Fiorentina.

It had been two years and seven months since they were last on the top of the pile, and back in November they were 18 points adrift. But for once the man who gave a young Gianfranco Zola his debut at Napoli and gave a 19-year-old John Terry his first-team start for Chelsea might actually be finishing a job instead of starting one.

Roma parted company with Luciano Spalleti just two weeks into the start of the season and Ranieri, who had been sacked by Juventus with just two weeks left of the previous campaign, came in to work miracles with the same group of players, plus Luca Toni who arrived on loan in January from Bayern Munich.

The question now is can he keep his head and steer his side over the finish line. That reputation for not having what it takes to win when the pressure is on will be meat and drink to Mourinho between now and the end of the season on 16 May as the psychological warfare kicks in. Think Kevin Keegan throwing down his headset as Sir Alex Ferguson began to wear him and Newcastle side's 12-point lead in the Premier League down to nothing in 1996.

Much will depend on this weekend's fixtures. Roma face city rivals Lazio on Sunday with Inter at home to Juventus tomorrow night. Lazio are five games unbeaten in Serie A and will be out to become the first team since October to take three points from the new league leaders.

"I would not rule out third-placed Milan either," said Inter owner Massimo Moratti at the weekend, adding to the strain on the top side. Leonardo's team are four points adrift and waiting for the pressure to tell on Roma and for the strain of those two games against Barcelona in the Champions League to derail Inter's final month of matches.

A Milan league title would be a major surprise as their old squad continues to creak under the weight of too many injuries. This week they asked 42-year-old Paolo Maldini if he wouldn't mind lacing up his boots again for the last five matches of the season. He declined any participation in what should be a vain struggle for Milan.

Which just leaves the top two. Inter's last game of the season is away to Siena while Roma travel to Chievo. You wouldn't back against Mourinho – Fergie-style – getting to his opponent in the run-in but Ranieri has the experience not to crumble. And of course as a life-long Roma fan who played six times for the club before making a career with more modest teams... "he would just love it".

Serie A: Top of the table

P/W/D/L/F/A/Pts

Roma 33/20/8/5/59/36/68

Inter 33/19/10/4/63/30/67

Milan 33/18/10/5/54/33/64

Palermo 33/15/9/9/49/41/54

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Sport
Ojo Onaolapo celebrates winning the bronze medal
commonwealth games
Arts and Entertainment
Rock band Led Zeppelin in the early 1970s
musicLed Zeppelin to release alternative Stairway To Heaven after 43 years
News
i100
News
Prince Harry is clearing enjoying the Commonwealth Games judging by this photo
people(a real one this time)
Extras
indybest
News
Richard Norris in GQ
mediaGQ features photo shoot with man who underwent full face transplant
Sport
Lionel Messi looks on at the end of the final
football
News
Gardai wait for the naked man, who had gone for a skinny dip in Belfast Lough
newsTwo skinny dippers threatened with inclusion on sex offenders’ register as naturists criminalised
News
Your picture is everything in the shallow world of online dating
i100
News
The Swiss Re tower or 'Gherkin' was at one time the UK’s most expensive office when German bank IVG and private equity firm Evans Randall bought it
news
Life and Style
Attractive women on the Internet: not a myth
techOkCupid boasts about Facebook-style experiments on users
Sport
Van Gaal said that his challenge in taking over Bobby Robson's Barcelona team in 1993 has been easier than the task of resurrecting the current United side
football
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

The children were playing in the street with toy guns. The air strikes were tragically real

The air strikes were tragically real

The children were playing in the street with toy guns
Boozy, ignorant, intolerant, but very polite – The British, as others see us

Britain as others see us

Boozy, ignorant, intolerant, but very polite
Countries that don’t survey their tigers risk losing them altogether

Countries that don’t survey their tigers risk losing them

Jonathon Porritt sounds the alarm
How did our legends really begin?

How did our legends really begin?

Applying the theory of evolution to the world's many mythologies
Watch out: Lambrusco is back on the menu

Lambrusco is back on the menu

Naff Seventies corner-shop staple is this year's Aperol Spritz
A new Russian revolution: Cracks start to appear in Putin’s Kremlin power bloc

A new Russian revolution

Cracks start to appear in Putin’s Kremlin power bloc
Eugene de Kock: Apartheid’s sadistic killer that his country cannot forgive

Apartheid’s sadistic killer that his country cannot forgive

The debate rages in South Africa over whether Eugene de Kock should ever be released from jail
Standing my ground: If sitting is bad for your health, what happens when you stay on your feet for a whole month?

Standing my ground

If sitting is bad for your health, what happens when you stay on your feet for a whole month?
Commonwealth Games 2014: Dai Greene prays for chance to rebuild after injury agony

Greene prays for chance to rebuild after injury agony

Welsh hurdler was World, European and Commonwealth champion, but then the injuries crept in
Israel-Gaza conflict: Secret report helps Israelis to hide facts

Patrick Cockburn: Secret report helps Israel to hide facts

The slickness of Israel's spokesmen is rooted in directions set down by pollster Frank Luntz
The man who dared to go on holiday

The man who dared to go on holiday

New York's mayor has taken a vacation - in a nation that has still to enforce paid leave, it caused quite a stir, reports Rupert Cornwell
Best comedians: How the professionals go about their funny business, from Sarah Millican to Marcus Brigstocke

Best comedians: How the professionals go about their funny business

For all those wanting to know how stand-ups keep standing, here are some of the best moments
The Guest List 2014: Forget the Man Booker longlist, Literary Editor Katy Guest offers her alternative picks

The Guest List 2014

Forget the Man Booker longlist, Literary Editor Katy Guest offers her alternative picks
Jokes on Hollywood: 'With comedy film audiences shrinking, it’s time to move on'

Jokes on Hollywood

With comedy film audiences shrinking, it’s time to move on