The first two footballing cases of the new season are at Inter and Roma. But there is one big difference: while Inter’s defeat by Chievo was only the start of their trial, Roma’s crazy defeat by Porto and elimination in the playoff round of the Champions League was an early conviction. If what De Boer has shown in his early days in Italian football raises questions, Spalletti’s work already contains answers, unfortunately for Roma: awfully negative ones. From an economic and sporting point of view, he has already suffered an incredible heavy defeat. To fix it, there is only one possibility: to fight right up until the end of the season (not just until March) for the title.
Roma’s day after the night before began with numbers. The stock market numbers, where after their elimination from the Champions League their share price fell 8.98% to 0.4633, another €3m slipping through their fingers. The numbers of the American ownership – first DiBenedetto, now Pallotta – in European competitions. Since 18th August, 2011, Roma have played 22 games in the Champions League and Europa League, and have won just 3 (5-1 against CSKA Moscow and 3-2 against Bayer Leverkusen at home in the Champions League, and 2-1 away against Feyenoord in the Europa League), losing 10 and drawing 9. They have conceded 46 goals (more than 2 a game) and scored 25. Nothing has changed, either with Luis Enrique, Rudi Garcia or now Luciano Spalletti (4 games against Real Madrid and Porto, 3 defeats and 1 draw, 8 goals conceded and just 1 scored – and that an own goal by Felipe).
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 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.
What sort of Porto team will Roma face in a couple of days’ time in their most important tie of the season? Their formation is always the same, 4-3-3, which they have used in previous seasons, even after Nuno Espirito Santo took charge of the Portuguese side. But let’s look at how the rest will work.