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Roma stroll past Spezia to increase top-4 hopes

DeFodi Images / Getty

Milan, Jan 22, 2023 (AFP) - Roma pounced on Juventus being slapped with a massive points deduction by seeing off Spezia 2-0 on Sunday and provisionally moving into Serie A's Champions League positions.

Jose Mourinho's team are fourth in Italy's top flight after Sunday's matches thanks to goals in each half from Stephan El Shaarawy and Tammy Abraham and the Italian Football Federation's (FIGC) decision to dock Juve 15 points on Friday.

Juve are still officially third as their punishment isn't yet represented in the league table but as long as Atalanta, who started the day level with Roma, don't win at the Allianz Stadium in Turin later the capital club will be in the top four come the end of the day.

Roma are level on 37 points with Inter who host Empoli on Monday and just one behind second-placed AC Milan ahead of the champions' trip on Tuesday to Rome to take on Lazio, the other team who can move above Roma into the top four.

The away side came away with the three points despite the absence of Italy international Nicolo Zaniolo, who refused to be picked in the matchday squad and was openly criticised by the club's general manager Tiago Pinto pre-match.

Pinto said of Zaniolo that "personal interests have been put ahead of the collective good" with over a week remaining in the winter transfer window, adding that "it's not the first time this has happened".

Zaniolo was key to Roma's Conference League triumph last season but wants to leave after a poor campaign in the Eternal City in which he has been overshadowed by Paulo Dybala as the clear star of Mourinho's team.

Dybala was again key for Roma at the Stadio Picco, having a hand in both goals and continuing his happy partnership with Abraham.

Missing star striker M'Bala Nzola, Spezia were content to rough up Roma but were caught right before half-time when El Shaarawy exchanged passes with Dybala and finished a lightning breakaway with a simple finish.

And three minutes after the break Dybala was handed the ball by Salvatore Esposito and the Argentina forward fed Abraham who brilliantly nutmegged both Mattia Caldara and goalkeeper Bartlomiej Dragowski on his way to netting his fifth league goal of the season.

Spezia are 15th on 18 points, one ahead of Sassuolo who sit just above the relegation zone following their 1-1 draw at Monza earlier on Sunday.

Sassuolo are edging ever closer to the bottom three as Verona won for the second time since Marco Zaffaroni took over during the World Cup break on Saturday to move to within five points of safety.

Their point at the U-Power Stadium made survival even harder for Sampdoria, who fell to a 1-0 home defeat to Udinese following Kingsley Ehizibue's strike with two minutes remaining.

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