Roma have lived to fight another day, but the panorama moving forward is not positive. Amadou Diawara’s late winner at the Artemio Franchi leaves La Lupa within touching distance of the top four, and the scrappy nature of their success in Florence will boost morale for the battles ahead.
However, problems at both ends of the pitch and a congested calendar could doom their hopes of Champions League qualification.
The last few days have reaffirmed the Giallorossi’s defensive deficiencies. Lapses in concentration led to both of Milan’s goals at the weekend, while La Viola were defending a corner kick just seconds before scoring their equalizer.
Many an elemental error at the back can be bailed out by a solid goalkeeper, but Pau López has been anything but that since arriving in the Eternal City.
The Spanish netminder has made some smart saves since returning to the fold in mid-December but is far too fallible with his feet for Paulo Fonseca’s progressive approach.
It is challenging to build a solid foundation with such a shaky shot-stopper, and as such it is no surprise to see that Roma have the worst defensive record of any team in the top half (38 goals conceded).
Acquiring a new netminder will surely be at the forefront of Tiago Pinto’s thoughts come the summer, but a high-powered attack had been able to paper over the cracks for most of the campaign.
Yet, the effervescent exhibitions that were once commonplace have been conspicuous by their absence in recent weeks, and that trend continued in Tuscany.
Borja Mayoral has proved himself an adequate alternative to Edin Dzeko, but the big Bosnian’s bruising presence was sorely missed on Wednesday. Meanwhile, Jordan Veretout’s injury creates a huge hole in the engine room.
It is unclear how much time the Frenchmen will spend on the treatment table, but the fact that he had to be supported by two members of the club’s medical staff as he hobbled off the field suggests that his could be a lengthy absence.
A prolonged spell on the sidelines for the former Fiorentina man would be a hammer blow to the Giallorossi’s domestic and European ambitions. The rested Gonzalo Villar could return to partner Diawara in midfield, but neither appear capable of replicating Veretout’s goalscoring prowess.
The Guinean has just three Serie A goals to his name since he first burst onto the scene with Bologna, while Villar is yet to find the back of the net in Roman red.
Captain fantastic Lorenzo Pellegrini could be moved back to provide punch in that sector, but switching arguably your best player from his preferred position may not be the right call.
Regardless of what Fonseca decides to do, he will have to carefully manage minutes between now and the conclusion of the campaign. La Lupa are still fighting on two fronts, with their Europa League round of 16 tie with Shakhtar set to start next Thursday.
If that tricky tie can be navigated, then the Giallorossi could well be the last Italian side left in Europe. Milan have a demanding duel with Manchester United on the docket, while Juventus, Atalanta and Lazio are all dealing with deficits heading into decisive second legs.
All of those clubs are direct competitors in the race for a top four place, and extra rest at this crucial stage of the season could make all the difference. A two point gap to fourth may not seem like much, but tired Roman legs would give their rivals an all-important leg up.