Group Stage Fan Preview: Roma

The second year of Eusebio Di Francesco and Monchi’s reign at Roma has seen yet another major overturn in players. After a historic semifinal finish in the Champions League and a third-place finish in Serie A, the giallorossi quickly got to work to address major issues that proved troublesome throughout the season. Monchi quickly worked to provide depth in the midfield and the defence, both of which were severely lacking last season. In came Iván Marcano, William Bianda, Davide Santon, Ante Ćorić, Bryan Cristante, Steven N’Zonzi and Nicolò Zaniolo. Monchi also brought in the highly-rated Justin Kluivert to provide competition and depth to the wings as well. While many were happy with the additions that Monchi added to the team, it was his sales that caused many to doubt Monchi’s abilities as sporting director.

This summer saw important players such as Radja Nainggolan, Kevin Strootman and world-class goalkeeper Alisson Becker sold due to various reasons. Radja was sold to Inter Milan due to the club not wanting to deal with his excessive party lifestyle and declining form from last season, Strootman was sold to Marseille due to his below-average seasons since returning from his knee injuries, and Alisson was sold to Liverpool due to the club not being able to afford his wage demands. All three players were fan-favorites and, especially Alisson, were seen as key players in Roma’s challenge for any silverware this season. While Roma found somewhat competent midfield replacements with N’Zonzi and Cristante, the giallorossi cannot say the same for Alisson. Having sold Łukasz Skorupski, who would have been an excellent Alisson replacement, earlier in the summer to Bologna for cash and Antonio Mirante, Monchi purchased Swedish World Cup goalkeeper Robin Olsen to replace the Anfield-bound Brazilian. What was once seen as an area of strength for Roma has now massively downgraded, as Olsen has failed to show that he is an adequate Alisson replacement throughout the first three games in Serie A, having conceded five goals in three games and not inspiring any confidence in the backline.

Eusebio Di Francesco has also not inspired much confidence in fans. Although it has only been three league games, Roma have won one, drawn one, and lost one game respectively. The team has conceded five goals and scored five goals, but their performance throughout the three games have left a lot to be desired. It seems as though the boss has not yet figured out his tactics this season, with the mass influx of new players causing him to experiment with tactics and formations throughout the past three games. As a result, the team has looked lost throughout the three matches, causing many to doubt in ‘EDF’s’ abilities to lead the team back to greatness. One hopes that Di Francesco is able to figure out his starting eleven as soon as possible before the Champions League starts.

The Champions League group stage draw has seen Roma pitted against Real Madrid, CSKA Moscow and FC Viktoria Plzeň in Group G. Roma will kick off their Champions league on September 19 against the reigning champions Real Madrid at the Santiago Bernabéu. They, then play Viktoria Plzeň and CSKA Moscow at home, respectively, before traveling to Moscow on November 7 and facing Real Madrid at the Stadio Olimpico on November 27 before finally traveling to Plzeň on December 12 to finish their Champions League group stage campaign.

I expect Roma to finish second in the group. The matches against Real Madrid will prove to be difficult, and it will take a miracle for the team to manage to get some points against the Spanish giants; however, I expect the giallorossi to make the most of their opportunities and get their points from CSKA Moscow and Viktoria Plzeň. The away match against CSKA Moscow will be a difficult match for the Italians, as it is never an easy nor pleasant experience to play in Russia during the winter but Roma will have to win there in order to hope to advance to the round of sixteen. Without being too overconfident, I fully expect the giallorossi to finish comfortably second in the group and advance to the round of sixteen barring a major upset.

By: Sarfraz Khan

Photo: La Presse