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Monday August 3 2020
Reborn Roma have Sevilla in their sights

Roma have been transformed by a shift in tactics and can unleash those weapons on the Sevilla weak spots, explains Wayne Girard.

As June turned into July, Paulo Fonseca returned to the drawing board following a downturn in his side’s play. Milan, Napoli, and Udinese took nine points away from Roma, forcing the boss to re-examine his tactics and player choices. 

While his strategy of total football would undoubtedly remain, there were whispers within the press that the coach was trying out a 3-4-2-1 formation. Yet unforeseen in the first three quarters of the season, it was immediately met with positivity, highlighting certain players’ attributes.

None more so than Bruno Peres and Leonardo Spinazzola - the wing-backs had different journeys in their season, as Peres returned to Rome following a few loan spells, while Spinazzola struggled in the flat-back four man defence. Edin Dzeko meanwhile, had too often been forced into isolation, as the offensive wingers would drop to aid the outside backs when facing strong opponents. The tandem of Jordan Veretout and Amadou Diawara also seemed unbalanced, as the Frenchman felt held back from doing what he does best, in driving attacking play from the centre.  

The tide turned against Parma. Spinazzola was suddenly making dazzling runs to pierce the final third, while Peres’ width had exposed his opponent time and time again. Left with fewer defensive duties, the backline was stabilised by a three-man defence. It must be noted that Roger Ibanez then surprised Serie A - but not his coach - proving his strength, positioning, and reaction through a run of games.

Diawara, meanwhile, improved his form after a tough restart. Over a string of matches his confidence multiplied, and he now finds himself as the epicentre of the team’s play, acting in a 360 degree range to maintain possession and probe counter-attacks. Veretout has also shown tangible progress by scoring several goals, as well as a scorcher against Parma in the match that commenced Roma’s revival.

Dzeko, now consistently finding support in Henrikh Mkhitaryan, has since scored two goals and created two assists - but equally as important, has been fundamental in hold-up play and Fonseca’s offensive build-up. 

Roma will now get to test their new formula in international waters. Sevilla are led by the 53-year-old manager Julen Lopetegui. In his 17th year of coaching, the Spaniard has made his rounds through the upper echelons of Iberian football, having most recently managed Real Madrid, before being axed following a 5-1 away loss in El Clasico. Unbeaten in their last 17 matches - including draws against Barcelona and Atletico Madrid - Lopetegui has reached this staggering statistic through a possession-based-approach. 

A 4-3-3 on paper, Lopetegui orders his defensive midfielder to drop back as an anchor, and his wing-backs to join the midfield in creating a 3-4-3 as soon as the ball is won. This helps his side overload the midfield to utilise fast, ball-playing midfielders such as Ever Banega and Joan Jordan. 

At the centre of the attack Lucas Ocampos has scored 14 times in his first season with Los Nervionenses. With the size and strength of a centre-forward, Ocampos’ play is incredibly balanced with tidy dribbling skills and explosive speed. Typically used as an inverted winger, he drifts inside to stretch out the opponent’s backline with Luuk de Jong, often looking to find the ball on his right foot. Now in the prime of his career at 26 years of age, Ocampos is the single greatest threat in Lopetegui’s roster. 

On the right flank, Suso has found a permanent place to call home. He has struggled at the beginning of his five-year deal though, scoring and creating an assist just once. Nevertheless, he will be eyeing up a key performance against a club he knows well from his days with Milan. A big match is too often all the motivation a player needs to recapture their career. 

The chink in Sevilla’s armour lays in its width. Jesus Navas is a cornerstone on the right side of the defence, having played 38 matches thus far. However, at 34 and with Suso not one to assume defensive responsibilities, Spinazzola has the chance to overtake his entire left flank. The match between Sergio Reguilon and Peres could also make Spinazzola’s side a key area of battle, if they cancel each other out.  

If Lopetegui chooses to give Navas a less attacking role, he will be opening his midfield to more danger in Fonseca’s high-pressure defensive shape. Roma will have at least two major areas to target come Thursday.

There is also the return of Nicolo' Zaniolo, who has come back at just the right time to make a genuine impact on their Europa League campaign. On the other hand, Chris Smalling looks as if he won't be participating following the breakdown of negotiations with Manchester United.

The Giallorossi are approaching their Round of 16 Europa League fixture against Sevilla at the best time. Winning six out of their last seven - including a spirited performance against Inter - has proven the Lupi have the proper attitude, with a character carved out from the depths of their hat-trick of losses. Roma and Fonseca will now stand tall as they ply their lessons learned in an evolved strategy against a crafty Spanish side. 

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Have your say...
@Coppainfaccia71, you quoted "Lazio are playing Champions League. Sit down son."

Not if Roma win the Europa League & Napoli win the Champions League.

Would love to see your face then! It's fans like you that cause the divide between Lazio & Roma. It's just football "son".
on the 5th August, 2020 at 1:37pm
Has Roma found its footing these last seven games? They drew with Inter and defeated Juve (after it clinched), now a tough Sevilla club that plays defence first will be a real challenge that can reflect growth. This team is inconsistent but can score especially with Zaniolo healthy and Fonseca's new style. The are vulnerable but able and if they stay in the game early and remain confident will succeed.
on the 4th August, 2020 at 2:46pm
Coppa71,
Juve, Napoli & Atalanta are playing CL. You are not.

You didn't answer me so I googled it myself...
Celtic & Cluj finished seven & six points above Lazio. Then both teams got eliminated in the next round.


I much prefer PES over FIFA --their gameplay is more realistic.
Roma will probably sign an exclusive with PES (or they are just preparing the club for a clean takeover.)

(If I'd write here why Jim is selling, they'd never post it.)


Enjoy playing CL next season, you've earned it.
on the 4th August, 2020 at 3:49am
Why is Palotta desperate to sell, dont tell me it's because of the stadium!! It's because they cant win a trophy for love nor a ton of money. How much are they in the hole for, about €300m? They dont even exist on Fifa 21, how sad.
on the 4th August, 2020 at 1:09am
Lazio are playing Champions League. Sit down son.
on the 4th August, 2020 at 1:05am
With all these games being one-offs, in foreign stadiums, without fans... everyone has a chance.
Even Conte can win it this year!

So what if Juve faces Real/ City/ Bayern... one magic moment from Dybala or Pjanic & Juventus can take the victory.
I'm sure few surprises will already happen in first rounds.
(But if Lyon scores an away goal, Juve will be in trouble...)


Scary thing is that there's a real possibility of ALL Italian teams crashing out this week!
on the 3rd August, 2020 at 8:08pm
Coppainfaccia71,
Remind me again, why are Lazio not in EL anymore?
I know they didn't advance from their group, but can't remember the superstar teams Lazio played against...
Hopefully Roma won't face those two teams; I mean, if they finished several points above Lazio, what chance does Roma have against them!
on the 3rd August, 2020 at 7:42pm
sevilla record in this competition is terrifying they have beaten some of the biggest teams in europe and some of the biggest managers.

as for roma they have a comparable squad the only significant difference being zaniolo who could be a game changer. It might come down to that providing roma steps up their game.

if they overcome sevilla they have shown themselves as true contenders for the europa league
on the 3rd August, 2020 at 7:22pm
Roma will be found out earlier on.
on the 3rd August, 2020 at 4:06pm
The 3-4-2-1 formation suits the players Roma have perfectly, and in particular Zaniolo. If they get past Sevilla they'r likely to meet Man United in the Semis which will be a difficult game but in a one off tie they could do it albeit being slight underdogs. Inter on paper have an easier route to the final but Leverkusen could be a problem. A Roma Inter final and Atalanta Juve champions league final anyone? Remarkably i'd say Juve have the least chance of all of them which is ironic.
on the 3rd August, 2020 at 11:52am
Roma are a good team and should pose a threat to all remaining participants.. However their defence is an issue and believe they will struggle. But in one off ties - who knows! Especially if Zaniolo plays well. Man U will be favourites having rested up, but inter probably have the strongest squad, provided there are no more injuries. Having sensi rotating with Eriksen will be a deadly combo
on the 3rd August, 2020 at 2:28am
They should be a threat to Sevilla, but their defence could be found out.

The only comfort is that Spanish teams don't seem to be the steamrolling force they were years ago when they hammered every other nation year-in, year-out.
on the 3rd August, 2020 at 1:25am

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