Saturday 25 November 2017

In brief: Totti back in frame as Roma strive to end Shakhtar run

Shakhtar Donetsk (3) v (2) Roma
Round of 16, second leg

After becoming one of three Italian sides to lose the first leg of their Champions League tie at home, Roma travel to Ukraine looking to salvage matters under new management, having gone down 3-2 to Shakhtar Donetsk in the last days of Claudio Ranieri's reign.

The former Chelsea manager resigned last month after 18 months in charge, leaving Vincenzo Montella to take on a caretaker role. The former Roma forward has guided the club to two wins and a draw since taking over, but is not underestimating tonight's task.

"We must think about one game at a time," Montella said. "We're going to Ukraine to win."

Roma's talisman Francesco Totti will be back in contention for a place in the side, but faces competition from Mirko Vucinic and Marco Borriello for a starting place.

In a 2-1 victory over Lecce on Friday, there were still signs of the defensive fragility that dogged the final matches under Ranieri. Lecce controlled the second half and Roma only won after David Pizarro scored a last-minute penalty.

"It is a psychological issue that made the team tense after conceding so many goals," Montella said. "That is why the fact we pushed through and won it in the 90th minute can be a real turning point. We are on the right track, but can still do much better."

Shakhtar, unbeaten in 11 home European games, are without Olexandr Kucher and Fernandinho.

Van Gaal to leave Bayern

Bayern Munich yesterday ended 48 hours of fevered speculation by announcing that coach Louis van Gaal would leave the club at the end of the season.

The Dutchman's position has been under scrutiny following the weekend loss at Hannover, which followed on closely from defeats in the Bundesliga to Borussia Dortmund and in the DFB-Pokal semi-finals to Schalke.

And although he will remain in the short-term, Van Gaal's current deal -- due to end in the summer of 2012 -- will be dissolved 12 months early. A club press release, also signed by Van Gaal, cited a "difference in opinion about the strategic direction of the club".

Bayern are fifth in the Bundesliga, five points behind third-placed Hannover -- third place would earn a play-off for a place in next season's Champions League. Bayern can also qualify by winning this season's competition -- they lead Inter Milan 1-0 following the first leg of the last-16 tie at the San Siro.

Irish Independent

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