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

Arts and Entertainment
filmPoldark production team claims innocence of viewers' ab frenzy
Life and Style
Google marks the 81st anniversary of the Loch Ness Monster's most famous photograph
techIt's the 81st anniversary of THAT iconic photograph
News
Katie Hopkins makes a living out of courting controversy
people
News
General Election
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Caption competition
Caption competition
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

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

Revealed: Why Mohammed Emwazi chose the 'safe option' of fighting for Isis, rather than following his friends to al-Shabaab in Somalia

Why Mohammed Emwazi chose Isis

His friends were betrayed and killed by al-Shabaab
'The solution can never be to impassively watch on while desperate people drown'
An open letter to David Cameron: Building fortress Europe has had deadly results

Open letter to David Cameron

Building the walls of fortress Europe has had deadly results
Tory candidates' tweets not as 'spontaneous' as they seem - you don't say!

You don't say!

Tory candidates' election tweets not as 'spontaneous' as they appear
Mubi: Netflix for people who want to stop just watching trash

So what is Mubi?

Netflix for people who want to stop just watching trash all the time
The impossible job: how to follow Kevin Spacey?

The hardest job in theatre?

How to follow Kevin Spacey
Armenian genocide: To continue to deny the truth of this mass human cruelty is close to a criminal lie

Armenian genocide and the 'good Turks'

To continue to deny the truth of this mass human cruelty is close to a criminal lie
Lou Reed: The truth about the singer's upbringing beyond the biographers' and memoirists' myths

'Lou needed care, but what he got was ECT'

The truth about the singer's upbringing beyond
Migrant boat disaster: This human tragedy has been brewing for four years and EU states can't say they were not warned

This human tragedy has been brewing for years

EU states can't say they were not warned
Women's sportswear: From tackling a marathon to a jog in the park, the right kit can help

Women's sportswear

From tackling a marathon to a jog in the park, the right kit can help
Hillary Clinton's outfits will be as important as her policies in her presidential bid

Clinton's clothes

Like it or not, her outfits will be as important as her policies
NHS struggling to monitor the safety and efficacy of its services outsourced to private providers

Who's monitoring the outsourced NHS services?

A report finds that private firms are not being properly assessed for their quality of care
Zac Goldsmith: 'I'll trigger a by-election over Heathrow'

Zac Goldsmith: 'I'll trigger a by-election over Heathrow'

The Tory MP said he did not want to stand again unless his party's manifesto ruled out a third runway. But he's doing so. Watch this space
How do Greek voters feel about Syriza's backtracking on its anti-austerity pledge?

How do Greeks feel about Syriza?

Five voters from different backgrounds tell us what they expect from Syriza's charismatic leader Alexis Tsipras
From Iraq to Libya and Syria: The wars that come back to haunt us

The wars that come back to haunt us

David Cameron should not escape blame for his role in conflicts that are still raging, argues Patrick Cockburn
Sam Baker and Lauren Laverne: Too busy to surf? Head to The Pool

Too busy to surf? Head to The Pool

A new website is trying to declutter the internet to help busy women. Holly Williams meets the founders