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Soccer: Roma concede title-race defeat, lose Strootman

Dutch midfielder damages cruciate ligament, needs surgery

10 March, 17:13
Soccer: Roma concede title-race defeat, lose Strootman (By Paul Virgo) (ANSA) - Rome, March 10 - After conceding defeat in the Serie A title race to champions Juventus, AS Roma's troubles continued on Monday with the news that Kevin Strootman is set for a long spell on the sidelines with a knee injury.

American-controlled Roma announced that the Netherlands midfielder will undergo surgery after damaging the anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee in the first half of Sunday's 1-0 defeat at Napoli. "There could also be damage to the meniscus," a statement on the club's website added. The 24-year-old is set to be out for nine months, according to media reports, which means he will miss playing at the 2014 World Cup in Brazil with his national team.

Roma used the club Twitter account, @OfficialASRoma, to highlight a wave of support for Strootman.

"I wish @Kevin_strootman a speedy recovery so gutted for you my friend!," read a message by Strootman's Netherlands team mate, Manchester United forward Robin van Persie.

"I'm sure you will come back even stronger!".

Strootman, a powerful, intelligent presence in midfield, has had a big role in Roma's transformation into title contenders after years of disappointment since French coach Rudi Garcia took over in the closed season.

The three-time Italian champions are on course to break the record for the most points they have ever collected in a single season.

Nevertheless, with three month still to go until the end of the season, Garcia has admitted that the championship is effectively over after defeat to Napoli enabled Juve to extend their lead to 14 points. Roma played well in Naples, but failed to put away a series of good chances and were punished when Spaniard Jose Callejon' headed home Napoli's winner nine minutes from time.

Juventus, meanwhile, collected their 14th consecutive home win when they beat Fiorentina 1-0 thanks to a splendid diagonal strike from Ghanaian Kwadwo Asamoah. "In terms of arithmetic, it's not over, but in practical terms, it is," said Garcia. "It's a big gap". Juve boss Antonio Conte also said he felt Juve's third consecutive league title since he took over the Turin giants was "50% mine". Roma, meanwhile, may have to focus increasingly on defending second place and automatic qualification for the group stage of next season's Champions League. Sunday's defeat means Roma are just three points ahead of third-placed Napoli, although the team from the capital have a game in hand.