Tuesday November 21 2017
Don't stop Roma now

Roma are having a good time in Serie A and the Champions League under inspirational Eusebio Di Francesco, writes Daryl Hammond.

Roma were always going to be perennial challengers for the Scudetto this season – and Juventus’ stumbles of late only make the title race that more enthralling. But things are a little different in Europe.

This time last year, they were gearing up for a Europa League group stage game against Viktoria Plzen, having faltered in the Champions League play-offs against Porto. Now they top a Champions League Group containing Atletico Madrid and Chelsea with two games to go and are still unbeaten.

Their utter humiliation of the Premier League champions was in particular a high point. More than anything, the Giallorossi have shown they can compete in Europe this season. How well can they balance their domestic and European commitments is the question.

Roma have every right to be ambitious. Their 2-1 win over Lazio in the Derby Della Capitale was their sixth victory in a row, as they keep pace with Serie A’s top teams. And though there are two games left, the Rome club are in the best position to advance to the knock-out stages, and with that comes the possibility of their first Champions League quarter-finals in 10 years.

There is still a lot of football to be played, though. Threats lie in both competition and Wednesday’s match optimises that sentiment like no other, as Roma seek to balance a fiery Rome Derby with a trip to Madrid, made easier only by the fact that Atletico themselves were embroiled in a cross-town rivalry this weekend. And, as home and away draws against Atletico Madrid have shown, Qarabag can bag a result against top opposition.

In the league, Juventus have the quality in their ranks to turn things around, while Napoli could just as easily run away with the league, as their UCL hopes hang in the balance. Having lost to Inter and Napoli already this season, the matches against Chelsea and Lazio in particular were great in showing they can perform against the best.

A huge benefit Roma may enjoy in the midst of their two last group stage games are two relatively comfortable matches against Genoa and SPAL, who are both in the midst of a relegation dogfight.

Coach Eusebio Di Francesco knows the travails of backing up European ambition with solid league showings. After he guided Sassuolo to the Europa League in 2016, their performances stuttered both domestically and in Europe, as they finished bottom of their group and remained in the bottom five before results picked up after the winter break.

How Roma approach this season will be indicative of how much he has learned since. It is worth noting he is better equipped this time around. For a start he has not only a better squad, but a deeper one, too. The loss of Mohamed Salah and Antonio Rudiger may have left some questioning how well Roma could compete. But with Edin Dzeko, anything is possible.

Moreover, outside the starting XI, Di Francesco can rely on the experienced duo of Maxim Gonalons and Juan Jesus, as well as the youthful exuberance the likes of Gerson and Lorenzo Pellegrini bring. Once they get Patrik Schick fit and firing, it will be another huge bonus. A lack of goals from those in reserve could derail Roma should Dzeko burn out or pick up an injury. Though it seems little can halt the hype train the supporters are riding.

“The most difficult thing was to get into the players heads,” said Di Francesco after the Rome Derby win. He has convinced them they can push beyond their limits, and there is little reason for them to think otherwise.

Have your say...
Pathetic line-up, we should've rotated the squad against Genoa and not Atletico. Gerson was rubbish tonight & Dzeko was AWOL. SES, Strootman & De Rossi all should of started. Typical Roma, just didn't show up. Very angry tonight and rightly so.
on the 22nd November, 2017 at 10:36pm
@ John Smith - good question... they and about another dozen Serie A teams need new stadiums... starting with Napoli.. that is a joke of an arena. When will Italian owners realize that they will be much more profitable when they create proper arenas? The modern stadium generates huge revenues potentially...
on the 22nd November, 2017 at 6:39pm
When will the build their new stadium?
on the 22nd November, 2017 at 11:50am
I wish im wrong but expecting Roma to lose this game
on the 21st November, 2017 at 8:19pm
Nainggolan and Perotti are what make Roma tick imo. They are both the creators and destroyers in this Roma. I see so many teams, Juve and Milan for instance that lack solid midfielders that have both the ambition to attack the goal and physicality to boss the midfield. I've always viewed midfield as the most important area of a team. A strong midfield is a winning team no matter the competition.
on the 21st November, 2017 at 5:34pm
Well done to Roma for topping their group. They put in stellar performances in both their games against Chelsea. This is a club with limited resources and yet they are doing well. I hope they go far in this tournament and bring in much needed revenue to the club.
on the 21st November, 2017 at 5:20pm
I think this is a little one sided. Sure, Dzeko scored two against Chelsea, but he missed a complete sitter, and usually needs 6 chances to score. It's not like what Icardi has been doing for Inter, he has an 80%+ chance conversion rate. Just like last season, Roma have created the most chances domestically and in the Champions League, but we havent scored the most goals when the two should go hand in hand. When you have Nainggolan and Perotti anything is possible, they have been our two best.
on the 21st November, 2017 at 11:15am

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