Sports

Roma's standout attack could be the difference in derby

Roma's Edin Dzeko is celebrated by his teammates after he scored his second side goal during the Italian Serie A soccer match between Roma and Pescara at Rome's Olympic stadium Sunday, Nov. 27, 2016. (Angelo Carconi /ANSA via AP)

Roma's Edin Dzeko is celebrated by his teammates after he scored his second side goal during the Italian Serie A soccer match between Roma and Pescara at Rome's Olympic stadium Sunday, Nov. 27, 2016. (Angelo Carconi /ANSA via AP)

MILAN — First there was BBC, then there was MSN, and now there's ... PDS?

Unlike Real Madrid and Barcelona, Roma's front three don't make up such a catchy acronym, but they are having the same effect on the field, if not better.

Real Madrid trio Gareth Bale, Karim Benzema and Cristiano Ronaldo have scored 19 goals in the Spanish league, while Barcelona's front three of Lionel Messi, Luis Suarez and Neymar have netted 21 times.

Roma attackers Diego Perotti, Edin Dzeko and Mohamed Salah have scored 25 times in the Italian league, helping the capital club to be the top scorer in Serie A — with 33 goals — and third in Europe behind only Monaco and Real Madrid.

Much of that has been down to Dzeko, who bears little resemblance to the player he was last season.

Dzeko wasn't the striker Roma hoped for after it signed him from Manchester City in August 2015, but he is now scoring goals almost at will.

The 30-year-old Bosnian leads the scoring chart in Serie A with 12 goals in 14 matches, four more than he scored last season in 31 league appearances. Dzeko has also netted five times in his last two Europa League matches.

It is that free-scoring style which has the players thinking about a first league title since 2001 — which would be fitting in what is almost certain to be captain Francesco Totti's final year as a player.

Roma is second in the standings, four points behind five-time defending champion Juventus after its 3-2 victory over Pescara and the Bianconeri's 3-1 loss at Genoa.

But it faces a difficult run in the league, with the capital derby against Lazio on Sunday followed by matches against in-form AC Milan and Juventus.

"I said to the team at the beginning of the season that we had to fight for the title and I still think that," Perotti said. "We're four points behind Juventus and we still have to play them. We have a winning team. It's true we make mistakes but to win the title you need to win matches like that against Pescara.

"Now we have a cycle of three difficult matches, and we need to take advantage of the form of Dzeko, who is having a crazy season."

This weekend's derby should be one of the closest in years, with Lazio having its best start to the season in 13 years.

Roma will not get away with similar mistakes it made against Pescara, where it almost let slip a two-goal advantage.

"I've scored 12 goals and I want to continue in this way," Dzeko said after Sunday night's match, in which he netted twice in the opening 10 minutes. "But we have to improve because if we play like this we won't beat Lazio. But the derby is another story, we want to win and we will do everything to do so."

Hardcore Roma fans are likely to continue their boycott in protest at the barriers introduced at the start of last season in their area.

"To be completely honest, it's not great for a player," Roma goalkeeper Wojciech Szczesny said. "When I was at Arsenal, I saw images of the Rome derby on TV and it seemed amazing, with the stadium packed out and pumping.

"I would love to experience that and see the fans crowded into the stadium. I hope to see the Olimpico full at some point. In the meantime, we need to focus on the pitch, not the stands."

Three of Roma's local heroes held a meeting with the ultras during the week. Totti, vice captain Daniele De Rossi and Alessandro Florenzi asked the fans to return, while the club itself is doing its bit to try to resolve the matter.

"All we can do is keep raising the issue with the authorities as to the need to consider the supporters peacefully returning to the stadium," Roma chief executive Umberto Gandini said. "This matter is on the agenda and it's one that is very important to us."