AS Roma Match Prgram (Tiziano Riccardi) The UEFA Cup/Europa League Round of 16 hasn’t been kind to Roma fans for a long time. For nearly 20 years, in fact. The Lira was still being used in Italy, Massimo D’Alema was Prime Minister and Francesco Rutelli led the Roman government. Their last success in this round came on 8th December 1998 in Switzerland, in the Letzigrund-Stadion, on the Feast of the Immaculate Conception: Zeman’s Giallorossi drew 2-2 against Lima’s FC Zurich (the same Lima who played for Roma between 2001 and 2004) and led by coach Ponte (not the DJ Gabry, but the coach Raimondo). The draw was enough for the capital club to reach the quarter finals.
La Gazzetta dello Sport (Chiara Zucchelli) Luciano Spalletti sounded the alarm just under 2 months ago. “We might have a few problems around February-March. We’ll have 11-12 games in 40 days and we won’t get out of it if we don’t have the right number of players.” The coach, speaking two weeks before the end of the transfer window, has been proved right. It was 15th January, there was time to add to the squad, but only one player arrived: Clement Grenier from Lyon. He can’t play in the Europa League because he has already played for the French side in the competition, and after a month and a half he has only played for a few minutes in the league in the 4-0 win against Fiorentina.
La Stampa (Matteo De Santis) A perfect home record, with 18 points from 6 games at the Olimpico, and the most prolific attack in the league have not only made sure that Roma remain in second place but also stopped Juventus from establishing an even bigger lead. A week after seeing their own Skorupski perform miracles at Empoli, Roma were back with 3 goals against Bologna, all scored by Salah (with the considerable assistance of Masina for the first one). Two points gained on Napoli and Lazio, none lost on Milan or Juventus, and to top it all they are the league’s top scorers with 29 (20 of which have been scored or created by Dzeko and Salah), 2 more than Torino. Spalletti can therefore feel relaxed going into the international break.
Roma lack balance, Roma defend badly, Roma concede too many goals. All true. But at the same time the problem, which has been somewhat underplayed, is that Roma don’t even know how to attack like they used to. Right from the beginning, as Spalletti noticed, there have been too many backpasses towards Szczesny, even from within the opposition half, and these are invitations to the opposition to gain territory. And when things aren’t working in the attacking third, it’s obviously more difficult to win games.
Officially a decision hasn’t yet been taken, but the busy fixture schedule that Roma are about to embark on suggests the need for a more precise choice to be made. Luciano Spalletti has consequently started studying Roma’s fixture programme from the point of view of his goalkeepers, as he is still undecided in the choice between Alisson and Szczesny.
Wild animals often attack because they’re afraid. Kevin Strootman has the aggressive eyes of a tiger, but he’s no longer afraid. Welcome to the never ending story that has now become history. There’s not just a happy ending, but a new beginning: at 26 years old, Strootman is starting out on a new career. “Now I can give my all on the pitch,” he explained from the Dutch international camp. “At the start it was difficult, I was more focused on my knee than on the game. But I had a fantastic holiday, I trained well when I came back and now I feel strong and fit again. I’m definitely out of the tunnel.”
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.