Sports News

Rejuvenated Mkhitaryan inspiring Roma to title challenge

(Reuters) - Henrikh Mkhitaryan has rediscovered his best form at AS Roma after years of struggle in England’s Premier League, with the Armenian helping his side to stay in touch with Serie A’s title chasers ahead of Sunday’s clash with Inter Milan.

FILE PHOTO: Soccer Football - Serie A - AS Roma v Sampdoria - Stadio Olimpico, Rome, Italy - January 3, 2021 AS Roma's Henrikh Mkhitaryan reacts REUTERS/Alberto Lingria/File Photo

The 31-year-old spent one-and-a-half seasons at Manchester United before joining Arsenal as part of Alexis Sanchez’s move the other way in January 2018, before enduring another frustrating spell in north London.

United signed Mkhitaryan after three successful years in Germany at Borussia Dortmund.

Yet having scored just 13 league goals across three Premier League seasons, two more than he managed in his final year at Dortmund alone, Mkhitaryan left Arsenal for Rome.

Following an injury-hit 2019-20 campaign while on loan in Serie A, Mkhitaryan signed for Roma permanently after his Arsenal contract was terminated last year, and now fully fit, Mkhitaryan is producing his best football again.

Mkhitaryan is one of only three players in Europe’s top-five leagues to have scored seven or more league goals while also assisting seven or more this season, along with Tottenham Hotspur’s Harry Kane and Manchester United’s Bruno Fernandes.

“He is very smart, one of the smartest I’ve ever trained,” Roma coach Paulo Fonseca said after his side’s 3-1 win at Crotone on Wednesday, a game in which Mkhitaryan scored one and made another.

“He knows how to find spaces like few others.”

AC Milan and Inter Milan had looked like they may pull clear of the chasing pack ahead of Wednesday’s full programme of Serie A matches.

Leaders Milan were the only unbeaten side in Europe’s top-five leagues prior to the visit of Juventus, while second-placed Inter, one point behind in the standings, travelled to Sampdoria on the back of eight successive league wins.

However, defeats for both, coupled with Roma’s Mkhitaryan-inspired success at Crotone -- their fifth win in their last six league games -- means Roma can go level on points with Inter in second with victory on Sunday.

“The main thing is to win every game, not worry about who we are playing against,” Fonseca added.

“Obviously Inter are a great side and it will be a different sort of match, but we will play with the same desire to win. We have always played to win against the big teams.”

Reporting by Peter Hall; Editing by Toby Davis