October 25, 2018 / 12:34 PM / a month ago

Soccer-Roma hope nocturnal Dzeko can shine against Napoli

ROME, Oct 25 (Reuters) - AS Roma’s baffling inconsistency has left coach Eusebio Di Francesco fishing for explanations, including the unusual one that their marksman Edin Dzeko plays better at night.

The Giallorossi visit bitter rivals Napoli on Sunday and their fans may be wondering which Roma will turn up — the one which thumped CSKA Moscow 3-0 in the Champions League on Tuesday or the one which meekly lost 2-0 at home to SPAL last Saturday.

After finishing third in Serie A last term and reaching the Champions League semi-finals, Roma’s start to the current campaign has been exasperating.

Performances have swung from the rousing display they produced to beat Lazio 3-1 in September’s derby to the dismal effort in a 2-0 defeat against Bologna and an equally poor second half against bottom-of-the-table Chievo where they squandered a two-goal halfime lead.

The defeat by SPAL left Roma seventh in Serie A with 14 points from their opening games — seven less than at the same stage last season and their worst since 2012-13.

“That’s my team,” said Di Francesco after Tuesday’s win put his team on course for the Champions League knockout stages.

“After a good first half (against SPAL), the team crumbled at the first sign of trouble and we completely lost our way.

“But we showed a lot of good things (against CSKA), including the ability to dig in. We found our rhythm, producing some good play and creating chances.”

Their ups and downs seem to be a reflection of Dzeko, who is in his third season at the club. The Bosnian is a prolific scorer at his best, as his tally of 80 goals in 150 appearances proves, but also has a tendency to go missing from games.

After the 32-year-old notched a brace on Tuesday, Di Francesco made a curious observation.

“It seems he prefers playing at night,” he said — a claim which was supported by statistics.

According to Rome-based daily Il Messagero, 67.5 percent of Dzeko’s Roma goals have been scored in matches kicking off after 7 o’clock in the evening.

“He’s an extraordinary player, and not just in terms of his finishing — he gets the team playing, brings the ball down and produces good service for his team mates,” added Di Francesco.

“He’s a fantastic professional — his pre-match preparations are always spot-on. When he has a bad game he might appear lethargic, but he does well when he’s determined.”

The good news for Roma is that Sunday’s game will be played at 8.30 pm local time (1930 GMT).

Napoli are second, four points behind leaders Juventus, and will have bad memories of Roma’s last visit to the San Paolo stadium in March.

They went into the game top of the table and on a run of 10 successive wins but lost 4-2 in what proved to be a key moment in the season which saw Juventus win the title, with Napoli finishing second. (Writing by Brian Homewood; editing by Martyn Herman)

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