Ajax will face a battered AS Roma in the quarter-finals of the Europa League on Thursday. With the Italians, many players are injured and the trainer is under fire, but they still traveled to Amsterdam with confidence. “They are used to playing against a team that attacks.”
Italian media added fuel to the fire on Tuesday. A large part of the Roma players group would be dissatisfied with trainer Paulo Fonseca and his training methods. There would even be a player who has chosen to take extra individual training.
The stories are typical of the difficult season that Roma is experiencing under Fonseca. The three-time national champion is disappointingly seventh in Italy, making qualification for the Champions League seem like a utopia. A win from the Europa League would be the only way for Fonseca to save his job.
“He has been criticized a lot by the media, and also by the board,” said Roberto Maida, journalist from Corriere dello Sport. “At the end of last season, the board wanted a new trainer, but they were unable to find him then. This season there have been many rumors that Fonseca would be fired.”
Paulo Fonseca was able to laugh during his press talk on Wednesday, but is under considerable pressure at AS Roma.
‘Roma are used to attacking teams’
The pressure on Fonseca and Roma seems to be in favor of Ajax, which is in shape. Nevertheless, the double confrontation with the leader of the Eredivisie may well come at the right time for the Italian team, says Maida.
“Ajax is the perfect opponent for Roma, who are at their best when the opponent plays offensively”, the journalist explains. “Then they can use their weapons and use the spaces. They are used to playing against a team that is attacking.”
Ajax has been warned on several fronts, because according to Chiara Zucchelli van La Gazzetta dello Sport the hunger for a European top prize is greater than ever at AS Roma. The club once won the Inter-Cities Fairs Cup (the predecessor of the UEFA Cup and later Europa League) in 1961 and would like to assert itself internationally now that the quarter-finals have been reached.
“Roma would like to play in the Champions League, but the club has not been in a European final for thirty years,” said Zucchelli. “The big goal for now is to reach the Europa League final in Gdansk.”
Stephan El Shaarawy is one of the players missing from AS Roma, along with Henrikh Mkhitaryan, among others.
‘Ajax can also win 5-0 just like that’
According to Maida, it also plays a role for Roma that Ajax was too strong in the Champions League in the 2002/2003 season. “Roma has never won against Ajax. They would like to change that,” he says.
“I think it’s fifty-fifty. Roma has the qualities to beat Ajax, but has a very changeable team. If Roma has a bad day, Ajax can also win 5-0.”
Ajax-AS Roma starts on Thursday at 9 p.m. The Russian Sergey Karasev is the referee in the Johan Cruijff ArenA. The return in Italy is in a week.
View the program in the quarter-finals of the Europa League