Roma manager Luciano Spalletti has told misfiring striker Edin Dzeko he should beg for a shirt for Sunday's trip to Udinese as he cracked the whip days after seeing his side limp out of the Uefa Champions League to Real Madrid.
Dzeko was one of several players slated for a poor performance in the second leg of their last-16 tie at the Bernabeu in midweek where Roma succumbed to a 2-0 reverse and a 4-0 aggregate defeat to the 10-time champions.
Roma, who sit third in Serie A in the last Champions League qualifying place with a three-point cushion on Fiorentina, will now focus on making sure they drop no further in the league as they look to qualify for next season’s competition.
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But Dzeko, and the rest of Roma’s players, have been warned there can be no room for complacency over the 10 final games of the season.
“Everything that happens from here until the end of the season will be taken into account when we start making decisions in May,” Spalletti said yesterday.
“Nobody can afford to rest on their laurels.
“I am referring to our mental attitude, not just to the players who missed goalscoring opportunities.
“I’m talking about the defenders who let them [Real] score and the midfielders who forgot to dig in and lend a hand.”
Bosnian Dzeko was singled out, although Spalletti said he would at least keep his place in the starting line-up.
“With his attitude and behaviour ... he better be begging me he gets a shirt for tomorrow at Udinese,” added the manager, 57, now in his second spell at Roma after replacing sacked Frenchman Rudi Garcia two months ago.
“I can do him the favour of gifting him a shirt, but then it’s up to him.”
League champions Juventus stretched their lead over title-chasing Napoli to six points with a 1-0 win over Sassuolo on Friday, although Napoli can reduce the gap to three again with a win at Palermo today.
While Juve and Napoli are expected to duel for the title, Roma face competition from Fiorentina, Inter Milan and AC Milan for third in what should be a thrilling run-in.
Last week’s 4-1 home win over Fiorentina saw Roma stretch their winning streak to seven consecutive league games for the first time this season.
But Spalletti says it is not enough.
“We need results so we can see what the future holds for myself, for the club and the players,” he said.
“But no one should feel relaxed.
“We still have too many ups and downs and we absolutely must reach our objectives because we’re in a really positive phase.”
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