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Roma’s turning point?

Ranieri calls for reaction to adversity

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AS Roma have made a downright patchy start to the new campaign, losing the Italian Supercup final to treble winners Inter, drawing their first Serie A fixture 0-0 at home to promoted AC Cesena, and then collapsing to a hefty 5-1 defeat away to Cagliari last weekend. Roma boss Claudio Ranieri is now hoping Wednesday’s Champions League opener against Bayern in Munich could prove the turning point for his unsettled team.

“Obviously, it’s not the start to the season we were dreaming of,” the 58-year.old acknowledged ahead of his side’s final pre-match training session at the Allianz Arena. “I’m expecting my team to respond to adversity. We need to be focused and ruthless, look for a good result, and turn in a decent performance. That would mark a new start to the new season,” Ranieri commented.

However, Ranieri is without a number of regulars for the meeting with last term’s finalists. Five men are sidelined with injury - John Arne Riise (head injury), Philippe Mexes (calf), Paolo Castellini (hamstring), Rodrigo Taddei and Mirko Vucinic (back) – and three of them are defenders. “Our options are reduced considerably when we lose players to injury,” Ranieri reported. As things stand, AS Roma will have to “dig deep into our reserves. Roma has to show what Roma always shows.”

As so often in the past, much rests on the experienced shoulders of captain Francesco Totti, substituted after just 25 minutes of the weekend defeat to Cagliari for tactical reasons following Nicolas Burdisso’s red card for serious foul play. “I’m sure Totti will rise above himself tomorrow,” predicted Ranieri, hoping for a classy display from the 31-year-old former Italy international and 2006 World Cup winner.

“We need a big and successful result to unleash the passion,” agreed Simone Perrotta, convinced the Serie A runners-up will soon sail into far calmer waters. A good display in Europe’s elite club competition would be exactly the tonic the club needs, continued Perrotta: “Playing in the Champions League is always fantastic. The big-name opponents and the atmosphere are strong motivating factors. We’re really looking forward to starting out in the competition.”

Ranieri is well aware that the task for him and his team in the group phase will be far from easy. “It’s a tough group and we have to deal with that fact,” said the coach, declaring Bayern runaway favourites to top the section. “Bayern are way ahead of the rest. The other three teams are fighting for second place.” Second spot, Ranieri insisted, was his “primary target. We’re happy to play second fiddle to Bayern and survive the group.”