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Roma boss Di Francesco defiant as axe looms

Milan (AFP) – Roma coach Eusebio Di Francesco remained defiant as he warned that his side have no choice but to win Sunday’s Serie A game against Genoa to turn around their season.

Roma — third last season but eighth after 15 games this term — play at home against a Genoa side spearheaded by Serie A top scorer Krzysztof Piatek, before next weekend’s game at champions Juventus.

Di Francesco, 49, could be sacked if Roma fail to win at the Stadio Olimpico, according to reports in Italy, with the club’s billionaire US-based owner James Pallotta growing increasingly frustrated.

“Against Genoa we have to win, it must be a new beginning,” said Di Francesco. “This game has to represent a rebirth, because we’ve all been put under the spotlight, including the coach. 

“We’ve analysed the mistakes we made, and I saw a real desire amongst the players to bounce back and show they’re not the players they’ve been in recent games.

“Now the most important thing is to find a great team spirit. We have to go to win an important match, otherwise it will be the end.”

Roma have won just one league game in nearly two months, against Sampdoria 4-1 on November 11, with two draws and three defeats since.

Last weekend they threw away a two-goal lead to draw 2-2 with nine-man Cagliari in Sardinia and suffered their second Champions League defeat in a row at Viktoria Plzen, although they still qualified for the knockout rounds.

In Serie A they are level on 21 points after 15 games with Sassuolo, Parma and Atalanta — five points off the Champions League berths.

“I feel the lads are very much behind me,” said Di Francesco. “My approach is to face things head on, not trying to run away. 

“I know that the supporters can’t be happy at the moment, but we need them. I’ve had messages of encouragement.

“I realise I have a special place in their hearts for what I am, but also what I represented in the past,” added the former Roma midfielder who played over 100 league games in the red and yellow jersey.

Roma have a long injury list with Edin Dzeko, Stephan El Shaarawy and Lorenzo Pellegrini all sidelined but captain Daniele De Rossi could return this weekend.

“Daniele De Rossi didn’t manage the entire training session, but he is in the squad. I want him to be with the team and he wants to stay with me,” said the coach.

Genoa are 15th in the league, five points above the relegation zone despite Piatek’s 11 goals this season, which put him ahead of Cristiano Ronaldo. 

The club have not won since September 30 with former Italy boss Cesare Prandelli’s first game in charge last weekend ending in a 1-1 draw against SPAL.

“I think we’ll meet a wounded Roma side who want to take the game by the scruff of the neck and make peace with the fans. 

“Our attitude will be decisive, because we have no intention of being sacrificial lambs.”

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