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In a year of surprise packages across Europe, Roma have somewhat unfairly slipped under the radar

Tuesday 1st April 2014
At the start of the Serie A season last summer, it was predicted that there would be a return to the glory days for calcio. The strengthening of the squad that had gone on at Juventus, although bordering on unfair given that Carlos Tevez and Fernando Llorente, two of the most sought after strikers at different points in recent times arrived in Turin, adding to an already terrific squad, was matched by an overhaul, mostly positive, at Napoli. Changes were also going on, on both sides of Milan, but one team that few were looking at were Roma, who many assumed had to far to go to make waves at the business end of the table.

How wrong people were. The Giallorossi went about their dealings quietly and shrewdly in the close season, giving their manager's job to the successful but somewhat unfashionable Frenchman Rudi Garcia, formerly of Lille. Although their were perhaps better options on the face of it for arguably the capital's biggest side, Garcia took the job and along with signings like Gervinho and Kevin Strootman, has taken Italian football by storm this season.

The season started in incredible fashion, with an unbeaten run that went from being your run of the mill good start to a genuine title tilt, for a while anyway. Now they sit second 11 points away from leaders and champions, Antonio Conte's Juve, with a game in hand to be played on Wednesday against Serie A's other pleasant surprise, Parma.

The title race looks dead in the water, despite the Bianconeri's half-baked performance at Napoli on Sunday night resulting in a 2-0 defeat. The champions elect are clearly winding down in the league and turning their focus to other things. In a way, that is quite understandable, they are possibly the only team in the history of the game to actually want to win the Europa League, but the final is in their own back yard.

However, even the most hardcore of the Roma ultras, if it's possible to differentiate, would probably say that the Scudetto was never in their plans for this season. In a year that has seen both Atletico Madrid and Liverpool make huge strides in La Liga and the Premier League respectively, both renowned for being rather closed in terms of the number of teams strong enough to win them, Roma have fallen by the wayside when being given credit for their season, also coming very far in a relatively short amount of time.

That despite the sales of their two top scorers from last season, Dani Osvaldo, now on loan at Juventus from Southampton and Erik Lamela, who has made next to no impact at all since arriving at Tottenham Hotspur for £30million.

Last weekend's 2-0 victory at Sassuolo was their 21st in 30 games this season, and although it came in rather controversial circumstances after the hosts were denied a penalty after referee Nicola Rizzoli changed his mind after five minutes of player protests, it has invariably strengthened and perhaps even confirmed their place in next year's Champions League, sitting 18 points above fourth placed Fiorentina, bringing to an end a three year absence.

Off the pitch, things are looking up too. Plans for a new 52,000 capacity stadium which would end their long standing ground share with city rivals Lazio have been confirmed for 2016/17. The stadium will, rather fittingly, mimic the Colosseum.

Roma will know better than anyone that one season's success can be another's failure, and that they will need to keep up the good work for everything to carry on in this trajectory. Milan are the perfect examples of how things can go so wrong so quickly, languishing in mid-table after years of success chasing, and winning, numerous titles.

Although Serie A may not have returned to the ways of old times in the conventional sense that everyone was hoping for, with Rafael Benitez' Napoli disappointing, allowing Juventus to win their 30th Scudetti with probable ease. However, with Roma and Roberto Donadoni's Parma, who are sixth going into the mid week meeting after a seventeen game unbeaten run was ended by Juve last week, both going strong, perhaps the old times aren't too far away after all.
Harry De Cosemo
19 years old, Newcastle season ticket holder. European football enthusiast and aspiring football writer. Currently doing a Journalism degree at Teesside University. You can follow me on Twitter: @harrydecosemo

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