El Shaarawy to start for Italy?

After Federico Chiesa picked up an injury during training, Stephan El Shaarawy is the favourite to replace him for Italy against Finland.

The Azzurri begin their Euro 2020 qualifying campaign in Group J by hosting Finland on Saturday evening, then welcome Liechtenstein on Tuesday March 26.

Chiesa had been expected to start in a 4-3-3 formation, but the Fiorentina forward pulled up with a muscular problem in today’s training session.

As it is a recurring issue that already affected him a couple of weeks ago, Coach Roberto Mancini must consider a Plan B.

That would at this stage most likely be Roma winger El Shaarawy, who has been finding his former with the Giallorossi lately.

Another candidate would be Matteo Politano of Inter, while El Shaarawy’s Roma teammate Nicolò Zaniolo is believed to be further back in the pecking order.

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Mazzone: ‘Ranieri has what it takes’

Roma legend Carlo Mazzone believes caretaker manager Claudio Ranieri “has everything it takes to bring this team to fourth place.”

The Giallorossi are currently in fifth, four points adrift of fourth-placed Milan and the Champions League spots.

“I hope that Roma can recover soon, as I continue to follow their progress with affection, purely as a fan,” former Coach Mazzone told Radio Centro Suono Sport.

“Ranieri was my player, one of my lads, and has everything it takes to bring this Roma team to fourth place.”

Today is Mazzone’s 82nd birthday and, like Ranieri, he was born and bred a Roma supporter.

“I thank the Romanisti for all their well wishes I’ve received today and for the fond memories they still hold of me.”

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Report: River pursue Pastore

River Plate are reportedly considering a move for out-of-favour Roma midfielder Javier Pastore.

According to TNT Sports, River are looking at Pastore as a possible replacement for Juan Fernando Quintero, who has been struck by an ACL injury.

The broadcaster adds the 29-year-old is highly rated by the Argentines’ Coach Marcelo Gallardo.

The former Palermo star has struggled for form and fitness since joining Roma from Paris Saint-Germain last summer, making just 14 appearances.

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‘Giampaolo sticking with Samp, Schick…’

Massimo Ferrero insists Sampdoria boss Marco Giampaolo will stay for at least two more years and accuses Patrik Schick of letting money get to his head.

Giampaolo has been linked with the likes of Inter and Roma but has two more years on his Samp contract, while Ferrero’s old boy Schick has struggled to live up to his club-record transfer fee at the Olimpico.

“We deserve Europe,” the President told RMC Sport.

“It’s a stimulus for the players. We have a great Coach in Giampaolo, who will stay with us. He has a two-year contract and he’s mine.

“[Schick] is an unfulfilled champion. He immediately found a hostile environment, plus he earns too much. Players’ heads get too big.”

Ferrero then paid tribute to Fabio Quagliarella, whose 21 goals have earned him a recall to the Italy squad.

“His record speaks for itself,” he added.

“He’s living a second youth. I’m proud to have him. We lost at Bologna, then [Torino President Urbano] Cairo called. I think he regretted giving him away.

“Quagliarella is happy, he trains well and is a real footballer. His head has never got too big and you can see the results.”

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Kluivert: Would’ve liked to face Madrid!

Justin Kluivert admits that while he has ‘no regrets’ joining Roma, it would have been ‘great’ to face Real Madrid as an Ajax player in the Champions League.

Kluivert left Ajax for Roma last summer, but whereas the Giallorossi – semi-finalists in 2017-18 – went out to Porto in the last 16, the Dutch side thrashed Madrid 4-1 to set up a quarter-final with Juventus.

“I’ll always follow Ajax as someone who loves them,” the winger told Fox Sports.

“I have no regrets about joining Roma, but sometimes I think it would’ve been great to play in a team like the one who beat Real.

“I’ve grown a lot at Roma, also as a person. Living alone makes you stronger. I’ve learned a lot, but it’s not necessarily true that I wouldn’t have improved at Ajax

“I don’t know if staying in the Netherlands would’ve let me break into Koeman’s national team.

“I believe that everything happens for a reason. Maybe it would’ve been the same.”

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