Tommasi: Pjanic can become Roma's Andrea Pirlo

EXCLUSIVE: The ex-Giallorossi ace feels the Bosnian has a crucial role to play in Sunday’s Serie A game in Turin, though he also warned his old club that Carlos Tevez is “on fire”


By Marco Terrenato

Miralem Pjanic has the potential to become Roma’s version of Andrea Pirlo, according to Italian Players Union (AIC) president Damiano Tommasi.

The Giallorossi travel to Turin on Sunday for a mouth-watering Serie A showdown with the Bianconeri, with both sides boasting 100 per cent records after the first five rounds of the season and locked together at the top of the table.

While Pirlo’s participation remains in doubt, given he has only just recovered from a hip problem, Pjanic is a certain starter for Roma, something that Tommasi feels is crucial to the capital club’s hopes of victory.

“I believe that the most decisive player for Roma could be Pjanic,” the former Italy international told Goal. “In my opinion, the Bosnian can become the Pirlo of Roma.

“For example, against Parma last month, Pjanic decided the game with a free-kick, just as Pirlo has so often done for the Bianconeri in recent years.

“Against Verona last Sunday, Pjanic didn’t have the opportunity to unblock the game but maybe he will have to do it on Sunday against Juventus, especially if it’s a finely-balanced game.”

Juventus, of course, have a number of potential winners themselves, with the likes of Arturo Vidal, Paul Pogba and Alvaro Morata all set to feature, Tommasi is in no doubt about which Bianconeri player Roma will have to worry about most.

“Here, there’s no debate,” the former Giallorossi midfielder stated. “In this moment, Tevez is the driving force behind the Bianconeri.

“He has been the man on fire in the Juventus attack in their perfect championship up until now.”

Juve beat Roma home and away on their way to winning the Scudetto last season, ultimately finishing 17 points clear of the Stadio Olimpico side with a record haul of 102.

However, Tommasi does not believe that the 2013-14 campaign will have any bearing on Sunday’s crunch clash in the capital.

“This Roma don’t seem to me to be a team that think about games gone by,” he argued.

“Garcia and his players live only at the present and they already know that they are capable of playing for the Scudetto right until the end of the season, regardless of the result of the game at Juventus Stadium.

“Therefore, I don’t consider this game a true examination, but we can say that for the Giallorossi it will be a little test to see if the difference between the two sides from last season has already been made up.

“My feeling is that it has, but we will have a better idea after Sunday.

“Regardless, I believe that we will see a really good game. Especially if the two teams manage to play their usual games, without too much pressure.

“We are just at the sixth matchday and the two teams have won every game until now, so they can gamble freely.”

Pjanic fires warning to Bayern and Man City

The midfield ace is convinced that Rudi Garcia’s men can reach the last 16 after their fine showing in the 1-1 draw at the Etihad on Tuesday night

Miralem Pjanic has warned Champions League Group E rivals Manchester City and Bayern Munich that Tuesday 1-1 draw at the Etihad has only reinforced Roma’s belief they can progress to the knockout stages of the Champions League.

After opening with an impressive 5-1 demolition of CSKA Moscow, the Giallorossi turned in an even more eye-catching display at the home of the Premier League champions.

Rudi Garcia’s men endured a nightmare start, conceding a penalty inside four minutes that was converted by Sergio Garcia, but equalised courtesy of a sublime finish from Francesco Totti before going on to create enough chances to have won the game.

Roma now sit second in the standings, two points behind Bayern but three ahead of City and, with both of their rivals yet to visit the Stadio Olimpico, Pjanic is feeling bullish about the Serie A side’s chances of springing a surprise by progressing to the last 16 at the expense of one of their cash-rich rivals.

“We knew of our quality and we wanted to play our game, even in City’s home,” the attacking midfielder told Sky Sport Italia.

“We were prepared to do it. The three of us in midfield [Pjanic, Radja Nainggolan and Seydou Keita] had to show personality to take the ball and create chances.

“The draw was well deserved and we could have got more out of the game.

“Still, the result is a positive one. We’re going well in the group.

“We are sure of our strength. Ours is a complicated group. However, City and Bayern still have to come to our home.

“We believe in ourselves and we know that we can go through.”

Roma now face home-and-away clashes with Bayern in the Champions League, hosting the Bavarians at the Olimpico on October 21 before travelling to the Allianz Arena on November 5.

Friends reunited: Dzeko & Pjanic face off for the first time as Manchester City host Roma

EXCLUSIVE: The pair have played alongside one another for years at international level with Bosnia and Herzegovina but they will be rivals at the Etihad on Tuesday night


By Jasmin Ligata

When Edin Dzeko was a child growing up in war-torn Sarajevo, he would sometimes have to spend his days hiding from grenades in the basement of his family home. But that never stopped the Bosnian from taking every possible opportunity to play the game he loved.

However, one day, his mother Belma refused to allow him to go to the local playground for a match with his friends. It was a decision that may well have saved Dzeko’s life, as the playground was hit by a grenade a matter of minutes later.

Consequently, Dzeko knows more than most that there are far more important things in life than football, which is precisely why Tuesday’s crucial Champions League clash with Roma will not be about rivalry for him – but friendship.

The game at the Etihad Stadium not only brings together two sides intent on qualifying for the last 16 but two men who have played together many times but never against one another – Dzeko and his Bosnia and Herzegovina team-mate, Miralem Pjanic.

“Miralem is my friend,” the Manchester City striker tells Goal. “We spoke right after the draw [for the Champions League group stage] and I am happy we will finally meet.

“He is one of best Roma players and my team-mates will have to keep an eye on him. If we leave him with too much space, it could end fatally for us.”

While Dzeko grew up in Sarajevo, Pjanic was born in Zvornik but his family moved to Luxembourg as soon as the Balkan war broke out. Pjanic started out with Schifflange in his adopted nation before being picked up by Metz, breaking into the senior side in 2007.

After a stellar season at the Stade Municipal Saint-Symphorien, Pjanic joined Olympique Lyonnais, where he established himself as one of the most exciting young playmakers in the game, eventually earning an €11 million move to Roma.

He took some time to settle at the Stadio Olimpico but flourished following the arrival of Rudi Garcia as coach last summer and is now considered one of the finest players in Serie A.

Dzeko took a different route to the top. He came through the youth team ranks at Zeljeznicar before joining Teplice. It was while playing with the Czech outfit that he came to the attention of Wolfsburg, who brought him to the Volkswagen Arena in 2007.

It was an inspired decision, with Dzeko scoring 84 goals in all competitions over the next four seasons before joining Manchester City in 2011 for €32m.

He has proven just as prolific at international level and is his country’s record goalscorer, with 37. Many of those strikes were created by Pjanic but ‘The Little Prince’ was very nearly lost to Luxembourg, whom he represented at underage level.

Indeed, Pjanic was only granted a Bosnian passport in 2008, thanks to the intervention of a member of the Bosnia and Herzegovina presidency, Zeljko Komsic.

Still, while their backgrounds may be different, the respect between Pjanic and Dzeko is mutual. Indeed, after watching Dzeko net twice in City’s 4-2 win at Hull on the weekend, Pjanic knows that his international colleague is more than capable of shooting down Roma.

“Edin is in top form and he will be the biggest threat,” the midfielder admits to Goal. “I hope he will have a bad day on Tuesday!

“He is very dangerous and I know how little space and time he needs to find himself in a goalscoring opportunity.”

Still, whatever the outcome of the game at the Etihad, Dzeko and Pjanic know that both life, and their friendship, will go on.
 

Free-kick master Pjanic the hero as Roma show Scudetto spirit

The Bosnian scored a stunning late set-piece to maintain Roma’s 100 per cent start to the season and continue their fascinating title battle with Juventus


COMMENT
By Kris Voakes | International Football Correspondent

Champions are made of steel. They are made of quality. But perhaps most importantly, they are made of character.

Some people were left doubting Roma’s character last season as their unlikely title challenge ended with an ultimately predictable second-place finish. But Wednesday night’s 2-1 win at Parma suggests they are building the kind of resolve they will have to show much more of if they are to upset the odds this time around and pip Juventus to the Serie A crown.

And if they do so, it is highly probable that Miralem Pjanic will be at the centre of everything that characterises their play. The Bosnian was in splendid form once more in the middle of the park playing a total of 112 passes at a 93 per cent success rate and, when things appeared not to be going their way, it was he who stood tallest of all.

After a rare goal from ex-Juve left-back Paolo De Ceglie had ended their season-long clean sheet, the Giallorossi – with Pjanic as the fulcrum – kept their heads, backed their ability to find a way through, and got the reward of three points for which they were very good value.

Roma looked in no real danger until De Ceglie struck, with a first half display of complete control leaving those watching with the distinct impression that the runaway Roman train would roll on untouched for at least one more game.

So overwhelming was their superiority that the opening goal for Adem Ljajic was utterly inevitable. And it was no surprise either that Francesco Totti should be involved, teeing up the Serb with a magnificent lifted pass which was thrashed home to give Rudi Garcia’s troops a deserved lead.

And while a second goal before half-time would not have given the scoreline an undue imbalance, when they came out after the interval the pace had been dropped ever so slightly.

That minimal dip in intensity was punished by De Ceglie when he rose high at a right-wing corner to head home the equaliser when completely unmarked.

Thereafter the game largely returned to its previous status, with Roma bossing most of the possession and territory. But the lack of a cutting edge, the inability to pick the lock in the Parma back line underlined the opinion of many that it will be the shortage of genuine goalscorers that could be Roma’s undoing in the title race.

Still they had something up their sleeves though, and with little over two minutes remaining they won a free-kick around 20 yards from goal. Up stepped Pjanic to glide a delightful effort over the wall and into the top corner of the net, leaving Antonio Mirante with no chance.

It was a wonderful goal to ensure a priceless win.

Parma is far from the easiest place to record a victory in an Italian league season. Juventus themselves failed to pick up all three points on either of Antonio Conte’s first two trips to the Ennio Tardini as coach.

Yet, despite facing a long period in the second half during which it would have been normal to start doubting themselves, Rudi Garcia and his men pulled through by continuing to do what they do best. And Pjanic was at the heart of that.

If anyone deserved to be their hero, it was him.

“Mire is a phenomenon,” Ljajic told Sky Sport at the end of the match. “What he does on the pitch is incredible, but it is not strange for us to see him do that.”

Training sessions must be one hell of a show!

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Pjanic is a genius, says Garcia

The midfielder scored a stunning free kick to see Roma past Parma and his coach was thrilled that he has him to fall back on when they’re struggling to break down defences

Roma coach Rudi Garcia praised Miralem Pjanic as a “genius” after he scored the winner in their 2-1 win over Parma on Wednesday.

Adem Ljajic’s early goal in the Serie A clash was cancelled out by Paolo De Ceglie and the game looked to be heading for a draw, however, the Bosnian midfielder had the last word, curling an 88th-minute free-kick into the top-right corner.

Garcia reserved special praise for the goalscorers and was pleased with how his Giallorossi charges overcome potentially tricky opposition.

“We played well with a very good first half that had quality possession,” Garcia told Sky Sport. “It’s always difficult to come to Parma and I really like their coach Roberto Donadoni, even though we saw a more defensive Parma tonight.

“I am very happy for Adem Ljajic, and I knew at the break we’d probably struggle on set plays. Other than those, we weren’t really allowing any chances.

“How did we resolve the situation? Gave Pjanic the ball and watched him score a genius free kick.”

Roma have been struck by a number of injuries in recent weeks, testing the depth in Garcia’s squad, but his players have responded in style as they are only behind the three-time defending champions Juventus in the table on goal difference.

“We played five games this season and never had the same defence twice,” the French coach added.

“All of them are important and with this series of injuries, which thankfully ground to a halt today, I have at least been shown that I have many great men to rely on.”