Friday December 13 2019
Europa League splits Eternal City

Vijay Rahaman looks back on a fateful Thursday in the Italian capital as Roma reached the Europa League Round of 32 and Lazio went out with a whimper.

Hopes of a Derby della Capitale Final at the Energa Gdansk Stadium in Europe were dashed yesterday as Lazio did not hold up their end of the bargain, crashing out of the competition. While the Biancocelesti failed to get the result they needed for progression, the Giallorossi made it – albeit, only just.

Lazio especially looked like a team completely dis-interested in the Europa League, with coach Simone Inzaghi heavily rotating his squad. In all six matches, inclusive of the last one against Stade Rennais, which was a must-win, he never used his best XI. It was a far cry from the side who have performed so superbly in Serie A, where they are very much in the top-four race, especially so after a dominant victory over perennial champions Juventus last Saturday.

While Lazio's best team can give anyone in Italy and Europe a run for their money, the same can’t be said about their squad players. The front four of Sergej Milinkovic-Savic, Luis Alberto, Joaquin Correa and Ciro Immobile move in unison with each other like a well-oiled machine, almost playing from memory. When even just one of them doesn’t feature - or in the case against Rennes, more than one - the machine totally malfunctions.

It was no more evident than in the double-header with Celtic, who ran circles around Lazio in both matches. Indeed, there was really only one team who showed their intent on showing the best of themselves, leaving the Aquile to pick up the pieces as they suffered 2-1 defeats home and away.

However, given his side’s Coppa Italia success last season and overall consistency in Serie A since he took over, Inzaghi has money in the bank. His Roma rival, on the other hand has no such luxury to fall back on.

Paulo Fonseca only took charge of the Lupi this past summer and all his moves on and off the field have been particularly scrutinised. While he too has made the odd change here and there in Europe, the Portuguese has generally tried to employ as close to his starting team as possible, even if injuries have forced his hand on occasions.

Fonseca arrived in the Italian capital with a sterling reputation, having led Shakhtar Donetsk to three domestic doubles in succession, doing so with a proactive style of play. That style requires his team press the opposition all over the pitch when not in possession, so fitness is paramount. That may also explain the excessive number of muscular injuries.

In an ironic twist, Roma displayed the coach’s influence best in the two games against Istanbul Basaksehir, who topped the group. They triumphed by an overall score of 7-0 versus the Turkish side, with striker Edin Dzeko plus starlets Nicolo Zaniolo and Justin Kluivert playing key roles. They were also the only team in their group with a positive goal difference, having scored 12 and conceded six (even if it should be five). 

Roma are now in the Round of 32 and the chase to end an almost six-decade drought without success on the continent is still alive, although their attitude which the coach himself eluded to after the 2-2 draw with Wolfsberger needs a serious jolt.

Italian teams have come under immense criticism for years for not taking the UEFA Cup/Europa League seriously. Many see it as a nuisance as they aim for what they consider to be the ultimate prize of Champions League qualification. Contrast that with the years between 1989-1999, when Calcio clubs made the competition their own plaything, triumphing eight times during that 11-year period.

The January transfer window is fast approaching and while neither side have been the subject of much market speculation, both squads may need additions to achieve their season's objectives. For Lazio, they could do with a couple of attackers and some defensive cover at the back. As for their city rivals, in the red-and-yellow half of the Eternal City, a reliable alternative to Dzeko.

Both squads still have major objectives to achieve this term, with Roma chasing European glory and Lazio trying to gate-crash the Derby d’Italia for the Scudetto. Should both ultimately reach the promised land, their Europa League group struggles will seem like a distant memory.

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Have your say...
Now, Inter has overtaken us...
If Milan ever gets to fourth, we're done.
Every season, Roma will sell to the big 3.

First time Inter got to CL?
--They bought Radja.
This year almost Dzeko,
Florenzi will go in Jan...
I fear if Smalling stays in Italy, it will be for Juve...

But there is one bright thing that came out of this Monchi mess.


It's like UNIVERSE conspired.

With Radja, Roma would 100% get CL & Inter wouldn't...
But did Roma instead gained a "new Totti"?

Let's hope.
on the 17th December, 2019 at 12:51am

Do you remember how hard it was to advance from CL groups when always entering from pot 3-4?
We had to make SENSATIONAL break-throughs against Atletico (CL FINALIST) & Chelsea (PL WINNER), not to mention beat BARCA by three goals!!! to get that pot 2!

How hard it was to FINALLY find a decent goalkeeper? Center-back?
Every season buying/ trying a new one, LOSING MONEY because of that!!!
And then, they are satisfied to sell for 35mil, 65mil???

(I'm screaming in a pillow)
on the 17th December, 2019 at 12:30am
@ United States of Totti - Roma completely blew our chance to break that circle. When we got to the CL semis we had a strong team, loads of money coming in and a real chance to establish ourselves as a good pot 2 team. All we had to do was show ambition, hold on to most of our top players and add a couple more. Instead we chose to sell anyone with any market value and roll the dice on cheaper, younger, less talented players. As a result we missed the CL last year and we're now back to square 1.
on the 16th December, 2019 at 4:50pm
Lazio and Roma desperately need new 50.000 seater stadiums to earn an extra 40-50 mill a year. It might cost them 250-300 mill, it can be done for that, but in the long run, it's how you operate in a modern world.
Bayern and Juve haid paid for their stadiums in less than ten years.
Same goes for Fiorentina, the Milan clubs and Napoli.
With an extra budget for a 40 mill player each year the can progress in Europe and earn the imperative coefficient points to keep all four spots in CL.
on the 15th December, 2019 at 5:23pm

Roma loses CL spot to Lazio because Nazist didn't have European commitments...
Next year, Lazio embarasses Italy in Europe because they start from pot 4 & don't have right squad for multiple competitions...

Roma loses money, loses players...
But next year THEY get to CL because Lazio was overloaded with it!

Roma enters CL but with worse team and coefficient..!
They underperform in competition and next year are again replaced by unloaded Lazio...

on the 14th December, 2019 at 9:18pm
Last year Roma obtained 66 mil for getting out of group stage in CL.
This year they got 17 mil for getting out of EL group stage...

A 50 MILLION difference!

Lazio is smart.
They should go for Serie A's top 4.
Who cares about EL
It's the worst competition --full of HUNGRY teams from far corners of Europe that can only tire, injure, embarass --therefore destabilize your team.

It does get interesting towards the end, but at what cost?
Taking competition seriously makes you lose places in league.
on the 14th December, 2019 at 9:02pm
Firstly, i don't think Celtic have ever ran circles around anyone, and certainly not in the 2 Lazio games. But Celtic deserved to go through, no doubt.

This looks like another shameful season in the EL for Italy, and its been like that for 20 years now.

And who will fly the flag this season? Roma can't defend, and Inter are unlikely to be interested.

Don't be surprised to see them both out well before the final - just like Italian teams usually are most other years
on the 13th December, 2019 at 11:27pm
I don't blame Italian teams for thinking the Europa is a nuisance. After seeing the amount of money Atalanta made by going to the round of 16 is staggering! Lazio does not have the depth to win the Euro Cup and that is obvious, so why delay the inevitable, mess with your squad rotation and fatigue? They are in 3rd place and a potential Scudetto contender. At the least they are focused (as they should be) on staying in a Champions league spot. The money they will get is how they will get depth.
on the 13th December, 2019 at 4:01pm
Sorry but your editor should have binned this article the moment he read 'Celtic ran rings around Lazio in both matches'.

You obviously didn't watch the games you're talking about. Lazio dominated both times and should have won comfortably.
on the 13th December, 2019 at 3:42pm
Roma's bench is simply a lot stronger than Lazio. They can call upon the likes of Under, Perotti, Diawara, Santon, Pastore, and Mirante. All of whom have proven themselves to be middle to top Serie A level. Compare that to Lazio whose only viable subs on the bench are Parolo and Caicedo while the rest consist of mediocre or unproven players like Vavro, Patric, Berisha, or Proto . Lazio's bench is laughably bad compared to the rest of Serie A's top teams.
on the 13th December, 2019 at 2:12pm

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