MILAN - AS Roma are making a habit of
bursting into form after slow starts to campaigns so
already-qualified Bayern Munich better watch out in Tuesday's
penultimate Champions League group stage clash.
Claudio Ranieri's side were easily swept aside 2-0 by last
season's runners-up in Germany in September but much has changed
since the Group E opener.
Roma were all over the place at the beginning of the season,
with the club being forced to deny reports they were searching
for Ranieri's replacement. However, they are on a run of seven
unbeaten games in all competitions and have surged up Serie A.
Frenchman Jeremy Menez, who scored a cracker in Saturday's
2-0 win over Udinese, is an embodiment of their renaissance
having struggled to make an impact last term when Roma again
started poorly before finishing as Serie A runners-up.
"Jeremy is a diamond who we are polishing up so now he is a
permanent starter," Ranieri told reporters of the playmaker.
"Roma were not in a crisis, only in difficulty. With
tenacity we have got out of it."
A home win over Bayern could herald the first concrete
achievement of that improvement - qualification to the last 16
- if Basel and CFR Cluj draw.
Roma, in the process of being sold, have been working to a
strict budget given large debts but a clever player recruitment
policy in the close season using loans and free tranfers has
given Ranieri enough cover for a mini-injury crisis.
However, midfielder Daniele De Rossi could be among those
fit to return on Tuesday.
Bayern are already through but the carrot of securing top
spot with a point and a potentially easier first knockout round
opponent in February means Louis van Gaal's side will be taking
the game seriously.
They travel without captain Mark van Bommel with the
Dutchman still nursing a knee injury but Franck Ribery, who
played 29 minutes in their 1-1 draw at Bayer Leverkusen on
Saturday, may get his first start since his injury in September.
Central defender Martin Demichelis was also back in training
on Sunday and is expected to be included in the squad.
"I think he will travel to Rome with us," said Van Gaal,
whose team have had their best start in the competition with
four wins out of their four games.
"We will see what is reasonable to do at this point. But we
also want to help our players become fit," Van Gaal added given
Bastian Schweinsteiger's suspension and the return of Hamit
Altintop, Diego Contento and David Alaba.
AS Roma: 27-Julio Sergio; 77-Marco Cassetti, 5-Philippe
Mexes, 29-Nicolas Burdisso, 17-John Arne Riise; 30-Simplicio,
7-David Pizarro, 33-Matteo Brighi; 94-Jeremy Menez; 10-Francesco
Totti, 22-Marco Borriello
Bayern Munich: 1-Hans-Jorg Butt; 21-Philipp Lahm, 6-Martin
Demichelis, 5-Daniel van Buyten, 2-Breno; 8-Hamit Altintop,
39-Toni Kroos, 16-Andreas Ottl, 7-Franck Ribery; 25-Thomas
Muller, 33-Mario Gomez.
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