How are Roma still in the Champions League race? That’s a very good question with a very complex answer. It's fitting that going into the Easter weekend, Edin Dzeko and Aleksandar Kolarov said it was a "miracle" they were still in contention at all.
The Giallorossi’s inconsistency has been the only consistent thing about them all season and yet, if they somehow managed to weather the storm in the second half against Inter, Claudio Ranieri’s men would’ve topped Milan and climbed up to fourth place.
It was only logical that La Magica’s leaky defense would capitulate eventually and Ivan Perisic’s diving header cancelled Stephan El Shaarawy’s stunner and marked the 46th Serie A goal that Roma conceded this season. That’s twice the amount of goals that champions Juventus have let in and the worst defensive record in the top half of the table.
As usual, the stats highlight some of the biggest problems that weren’t addressed during Monchi’s controversial reign at the club, as even last season it was obvious that some serious defensive reinforcements were needed.
Federico Fazio and Kolarov had solid campaigns last term, but even then they were far from solid defensively. With both of them being well on the wrong side of their 30s and Alessandro Florenzi being asked to start another campaign as the first-choice right back, Monchi’s failure to reinforce what already was an ageing and inconsistent backline promised a disaster all the way.
Eusebio Di Francesco’s dismissal was another strange decision by the club, as it was obvious that the former midfielder was not the main reason for Roma’s struggles. It must be pointed though that Ranieri has managed to revive part of the character and passion in some players since his appointment, but the overall state of the team is far from what it should be.
Yet, Roma are still just one point off fourth place and might well reach the goal that was set at the start of the season. Do the Giallorossi faithful feel confident in their team getting enough points in the five remaining games against Cagliari, Genoa, Juventus, Sassuolo and Parma?
Reaching the Champions League next term would be vital for Roma and despite everything, this goal might still be reached. However, if that doesn’t happen, the abundance of young talent that the club currently has could very well mean that one step backwards today might result in two steps forward tomorrow.
As for Inter, just like against Atalanta, the Nerazzurri did just enough to keep their rivals at distance and kept Milan’s slender advantage in fourth spot. However, La Beneamata do not have any more games against any of the top four contenders, so they should take their fate in their own hands and start winning a bit more frequently, instead of waiting on the others to slip up.
It seems almost impossible for Inter to lose their place in the top four, but whether the Nerazzurri management would be satisfied with “doing just enough” in Serie A all year long remains to be seen. The fates of Gennaro Gattuso, Simone Inzaghi and Ranieri heavily depend on reaching the top four, but unlike them Spalletti might very well face the axe even by finishing third.
The only certain thing at this point is that the top four race will go down to the wire.