Roma chases first Euro title for 45 years

<img border='0' align='left' title=' ' src=' ' class='caption'> After nine domestic league victories in a row, AS Roma appears in the sort of form that could earn a first European title for 45 years.

Updated: February 25, 2007 11:35 IST
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After nine domestic league victories in a row, AS Roma appears in the sort of form that could earn a first European title for 45 years. Luciano Spalletti's team visits Belgium's Club Brugge in the first leg of the UEFA Cup on Wednesday, hoping to capture a place in the last 16 of Europe's second string competition. Despite an Italian championship triumph five years ago and two more near misses in the Italian Cup, Roma hasn't won a European crown since the old Fairs Cup in 1961. The club finished runner-up to Liverpool in the 1984 European Cup – now Champions League – and to Inter Milan in the 1991 UEFA Cup final. Despite major financial woes, the club finished second in Serie A in 2002 and '04 as well as reaching the Italian Cup final in '03 and '05. Winning streak Now Spalletti's team, which has climbed from 14th to fifth in the league standings after winning only two of its first eight, is on a strong run. Sunday's 2-0 victory at Siena with goals by Siena Daniele De Rossi and Amantino Mancini was the team's ninth straight. But Spalletti may be tempted to rest some of his stars, such as Francesco Totti, who has a swollen ankle. Striker Vicenzo Montella is back from injury and Samuel Kuffour, who has returned from the African Cup of Nations, are both available. Roma is one of three Italian clubs trying to win back a title the nation dominated from 1989 and '99. Udinese hosts Lens, one of five French clubs in the last 32, and Palermo visits Slavia Prague. Olympique Marseille, which was UEFA Cup runner-up to Valencia two seasons ago, has a tough job at Bolton, which has lost only one of its 11 home games in the Premier League and has been playing well in its first season in European soccer. Middlesbrough rebounds England's other survivor, Middlesbrough, has rebounded from a poor run of results by beating runaway Premier League leader Chelsea 3-0 on Saturday and goes to VfB Stuttgart full of confidence. Of the other French clubs left in the competition, AS Monaco goes to FC Basel on Wednesday, Strasbourg visits Bulgaria's Litex Lovech and Lille hosts Ukraine's Shakhtar Donetsk. Germany is hoping to get four clubs into the last 16. Hertha Berlin hosts Rapid Bucharest, Schalke 04 welcomes Spain's Espanyol, SV Hamburg visits FC Thun and Stuttgart takes on Middlesbrough. (AP)

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