There’s no time to dwell on an opportunity missed. Sunday’s stalemate with Benevento could come back to haunt the Giallorossi in the race for a Champions League place, but Thursday’s return leg against Braga gives them a chance to get back on track.
An accomplished performance in Portugal has put La Lupa in the driver’s seat. Although the tie is not completely done and dusted, the level of control the Italians exerted away from home suggests that they should not have too much trouble at the Olimpico.
Two away goals also help, with Borja Mayoral’s late strike potentially pivotal. Despite having a man advantage from early in the second half, it seemed that La Lupa would return to the Eternal City with only Edin Dzeko’s cool volley to show for their dominance.
Those struggles to make their numerical edge count were repeated in Campania, with the hosts able to keep a clean sheet even with Kamil Glik’s premature trip to the showers. La Lupa were denied a late penalty for a Lorenzo Pellegrini offside, but they can have few complaints given their failure to cause more problems for a team that hadn’t won any of their previous six games.
The capital club picked a bad time to lack offensive spark. They’ve fallen back down to 4th after Juventus’ triumph over Crotone, while weekend wins for Atalanta and Lazio have brought both sides to within one point of the Giallorossi.
The table has tightened, and Sunday’s showdown with a wounded Milan now looms even larger on the horizon. Dropping out of the top four for the first time since December is a distinct possibility if the Rossoneri cannot be vanquished.
That task will be made more challenging by the defensive injury crisis that forced Leonardo Spinazzola and the rarely seen Federico Fazio into the back three against the Streghe. Despite the decimated rearguard, Roma managed a third consecutive clean sheet in all competitions for the first time since early November.
A newfound solidity must be maintained if the Giallorossi hope to make a deep European run, and another shutout on Thursday would provide further encouragement before the tougher tests ahead. The likes of Manchester United and Tottenham are sure to be in the draw for the round of 16, and outfits of that caliber will take some stopping on the road to Gdansk.
Getting their best defenders off the treatment table will be crucial to any hopes of lifting continental silverware, but it’s too early to start seriously discussing a first trophy since 2008. With that in mind, Paulo Fonseca’s decision to field all his available A-listers at the Ciro Vigorito made perfect sense.
Star turns from habitual substitutes Amadou Diawara and Pedro in Portugal prove that there is strength in depth, and the 47-year old tactician should continue to rotate his squad on the continent for the time being. Serie A should still be the priority, but a few more European triumphs could change that equation.