Roma lost their Champions League playoff and, crucially, lost their heads as they played against Porto with 9 men from the 51st minute in a match worth €30m. It is a failure that unfortunately means two things: 1) the inadequate impact on the international stage of the club built by Pallotta and Sabatini; 2) the inability of the squad to distinguish between the determination required on the pitch and violent and pointless fouls which, at this level, will not be tolerated.
Tonight the verdict is due, and it could change the course of the season. Joining the ranks of Europe’s best clubs isn’t just a matter of prestige, but it’s decisive for Roma’s immediate future in cementing themselves at the top of the Italian game. Getting past this stage is worth between €25m-30m. The Giallorossi have 90 minutes (if extra time and penalties aren’t needed) to remain a great side.
Roma’s squad is full of talent. We have counted 30 possible technical and tactical options which are available to Luciano Spalletti, who has now got the choices that he wanted from the transfer window.
Everything already seemed to be decided: Juventus would win the scudetto, Juventus B would finish second and everyone else would compete for third. To judge from everything that has been said during the transfer window and pre-season, it would seem impossible for Serie A to finish any other way, because the Italian champions’ signings seem – on paper – only to have increased the gap with everyone else. And that’s not just referring to Higuain: it’s a question of their squad, their mentality, how used they are to winning. But are we really that sure that this season will be a monologue all about Juventus?
The spirit of Roma, of not backing down but resisting and keeping going, is typified by their three midfield players, who were able to neutralise Porto with their strength and tackling. One of them, Daniele De Rossi, prophetically called the game “a battle”. If the target of the Champions League now seems to be within reach, it’s down to the perfect execution of the job done by the captain against Porto – De Rossi himself.
In Roma’s first adventure in the Champions League under Luciano Spalletti, the average age of the squad was 24 – this season it is 2 years older, providing the right mix of experience and young talent.
Roma are heading for fairly untrodden ground as they prepare for the first leg of their Champions League playoff round tie with FC Porto this week, but qualification to the group stage is a must for Luciano Spalletti’s men.