Roma's rough diamonds find shine for Bayern visit

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.

Probable teams:

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.