Euro Zone: Mourinho fears Roma's unbeaten run - European - Football - The Independent

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

News
Paper trail: the wedding photograph found in the rubble after 9/11 – it took Elizabeth Keefe 13 years to find the people in it
newsWho are the people in this photo? It took Elizabeth Stringer Keefe 13 years to find out
Arts and Entertainment
Evil eye: Douglas Adams in 'mad genius' pose
booksNew biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Sport
FootballFull debuts don't come much more stylish than those on show here
News
i100
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Life and Style
Kim Kardashian drawn backlash over her sexy swimsuit selfie, called 'disgusting' and 'nasty'
fashionCritics say magazine only pays attention to fashion trends among rich, white women
Arts and Entertainment
TVShows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Arts and Entertainment
Hit the roof: hot-tub cinema east London
architectureFrom pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
Travel
travel
News
The ecological reconstruction of Ikrandraco avatar is shown in this illustration courtesy of Chuang Zhao. Scientists on September 11, 2014 announced the discovery of fossils in China of a type of flying reptile called a pterosaur that lived 120 millions years ago and so closely resembled those creatures from the 2009 film, Avatar that they named it after them.
SCIENCE
Life and Style
tech
Arts and Entertainment
Matisse: The Cut-Outs exhibition attracted 562,000 visitors to the Tate Modern from April to September
art
Life and Style
Models walk the runway at the Tom Ford show during London Fashion Week Spring Summer 2015
fashionLondon Fashion Week 2014
News
Kenny G
news
News
peopleThe black actress has claimed police mistook her for a prostitute when she kissed her white husband
Life and Style
techIndian model comes with cricket scores baked in
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.

Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

A shot in the dark

Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
His life, the universe and everything

His life, the universe and everything

New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Save us from small screen superheroes

Save us from small screen superheroes

Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Reach for the skies

Reach for the skies

From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

12 best hotel spas in the UK

Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
How to make a Lego masterpiece

How to make a Lego masterpiece

Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam
'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

Exclusive extract from Janis Winehouse's poignant new memoir
Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

The Imitation Game, film review
England and Roy Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption in Basel

England and Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption

Welbeck double puts England on the road to Euro 2016
Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

Pictures removed from public view as courts decide ownership
‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

Donatella Versace at New York Fashion Week