Di Francesco on the brink as Roma slide continues
By Alasdair Mackenzie
ROME, Dec 13 (Reuters) - The front page of Italian daily Corriere dello Sport on Thursday is likely to have echoed the thoughts of the majority of AS Roma fans: "That's enough!".
It followed a limp 2-1 Champions League defeat away to Viktoria Plzen, the club's third defeat of a five-match winless run, with the only silver lining being that a place in the last 16 had already been achieved.
Roma conceded twice for the fourth consecutive game and substitute Luca Pellegrini was sent off within nine minutes of being introduced.
The sub-zero temperatures at the Doosan Arena reflected the mood among the travelling support, with many already calling for the sacking of coach Eusebio di Francesco long before the snowy trip to the Czech Republic.
Di Francesco, his players and the club hierarchy came under fire after a stunning collapse away to Cagliari last weekend.
Leading 2-0 with six minutes of normal time remaining, Roma's mental fragility and defensive deficiencies were brutally exposed as Cagliari came back to draw 2-2, despite the Sardinians having two men sent off between their two goals.
It left Roma in eighth in Serie A after 15 rounds, five points away from the Champions League spots and 22 points adrift of runaway leaders Juventus.
This is the second time this season that the coach's position has come under intense scrutiny.
Roma had a terrible start to the campaign, going five matches without a win. Results improved, with the exception of a 2-0 home loss to SPAL in October, but the club's second slump of the season has most media outlets reporting that Di Francesco will be sacked if he fails to beat Genoa on Sunday.
His only salvation might be that there are a lack of any standout alternatives waiting in the wings.
Former Fiorentina coach Paulo Sousa, sacked by Chinese Super League club Tianjin Quanjin in October, is one while ex-Roma striker Vincenzo Montella, sacked by Sevilla in April, is another. Former Juventus and Chelsea manager Antonio Conte is believed to be the number one choice of club president James Pallotta, but a move for the former Italy coach is complicated by his ongoing legal battle with Chelsea.
While Di Francesco is unlikely to last much longer if he cannot arrest his team's slide, he is not the only individual to be singled out for criticism.
Sporting director Monchi's summer transfer business has been questioned, with Alisson Becker, Radja Nainggolan and Kevin Strootman being sold and new arrivals like Javier Pastore, Bryan Cristante and Steven Nzonzi yet to make a significant impact.
The players have also been fiercely criticised for their dismal run with the 700-strong contingent in the Czech Republic on Wednesday making their feelings clear about the club's American owner. "Pallotta, go home," one banner read. (Editing by Martyn Herman)