The day is upon us where we find out the fate of our fair Giallorossi, and who gets the privilege of traveling to the Olimpico on either February 19th or 20th (first prediction of the knockout campaign: 20th - bank on it). As we all know, Roma finished second in the group and thus get the privilege of facing one of the other group winners. Cool.
First of all, UEFA would like you to know how the draw happens:
Under the draw procedure, eight blue balls containing the names of the group runners-up are placed in a bowl. A first ball is drawn from the bowl containing the group runners-up. The team drawn is placed as the home team of match 1. In accordance with the conditions of the draw, the computer will then show which group winners are eligible to play the runners-up of match 1. A bowl will be prepared with white balls containing the names of the group winners which are eligible to be drawn against the runners-up of match 1. A ball will be drawn from this bowl to complete the pairing of match 1. The team drawn is placed as the visiting team of match 1. This procedure is repeated for the remaining matches. If the computer indicates that only one group winner can be drawn, there will be no draw.
They lost me at blue balls. That's typically how it happens.
Ineligibles.: Milan, ManYoo, Argentina
Which leaves only 5 teams Roma can face: Chelsea, Barca, Real, Sevilla, Porto.
Real Madrid: They have a sexy roster, but they still waited until beating The Orphaned Baby Slappers on Matchday 6 to make it through to the knockouts. Hell, a Lazyo upset and this spot belongs to Olimpiacos (stop drooling). Still, they're running the show in La Liga having only dropped 8 points this year. And I'm sure all the new faces will have had a better chance to know each others ins and outs, turn ons and turn offs, and form some better chemistry by the time the 3rd week of February rolls around. And I don't believe for a second they won't splash the GDB of a 1st world country in the January window, if only because that's what Real does, regardless of whether or not they need to.
Matchup wise this is pretty decent as far as 1 seeds go. Obviously the defense would need to be on their toes against all the punch Real sports up top, but the same can be said for the Madrid defense.
Barca: Absolute disaster matchup for Roma. Quite frankly, the back line is good enough but not good enough to contain Barcelona for two legs. And the other option, composing and locking down Barca as a team, really goes against everything Roma is about. Unless Spalletti comes back with some magical tactics by February this is the last team I want to see traveling to the Olimpico. Simply: Pray this doesn't happen.
Sevilla: Sure, they finished first in their CL Group, but they're sucking ass domestically for a one seed, and their roster could be headed for a little bit of turnover in January; also got through in what is the biggest joke of a group that I can recall recently (they did beat Arsenal, but whatever). Sure, they have Alves and Kanoute and Navas, etc etc, but this is a great matchup for Roma. One which has Cassetti-Tonetto (or a quality vice-Tonetto in Jan) written all over it. Purely matchup based I think Roma stacks up best against Sevilla, and they would be a wonderful draw for European competition. (Color me unimpressed by those two UEFA Cup victories.)
Porto: First thing which is going to pop into everyone's heads is Ricky Q. Well he doesn't worry me all that much. Yeah, he's a fantastic talent, but he can be just as destructive. How many times have you seen him sit on the ground whining about a non-call, then spend the next 30 minutes going to ground when a slight breeze wafts by trying to get a call? He's like a mini, Portuguese Cassano, but less crazy. He's dangerous, yeah, but certainly not enough to worry me off a team. There's also the potential he gets moved in January, which is a real big consideration, even though you wouldn't predict it. And they do have a quality roster, but they also lost some real talent over the summer in Anderson and Pepe, and I think those two losses will be enough to spell defeat against almost anyone in the second round. I love this both as a matchup and as just an overall team to face.
Chelsea: This is the team Spalletti says he wants to avoid, and I'd agree, but the last team I'd still want to face is Barca. We all know about the roster, whose weekly salaries could probably pay off the US Nat'l Debt (which is $9 trillion+ - financial issues much?). Avram Grant has made nobody but the journalists and teenage girlies miss Mourinho. Chances are they'll bring in some serious reinforcements in January as well. Whether it be Modric, Bilyaletdinov or whomever. Plus, you could be looking at a return of Michael Ballack, who is still no slouch. Lotsa stuff to worry about here.
Matchup wise they can beat you anywhere. They can beat you outside, up the middle, over the top, from the back, from set pieces...and they can also close down well as a defense while almost separating into attacking and defending units. I don't think this is an impossible mission for Roma, but it would be a walk up a small hill at least, that's for sure.
* - Minor confession: As much as I dislike Chelsea, I really enjoy watching them play, for some odd reason.
I suppose a lot of how the matchups will go has to do with Roma getting healthy by the time February 19th comes around (I'm not optimistic). The other factors being what happens in January with both the opponents and Roma, even if Bruno Conti doesn't seem to think anything will happen (which he said last summer right before they bought Cicinho and Antunes, and nearly picked up a striker on the last day of the mercato - let's just say I'm not closing the door just yet).
And what if the Roma that started out the season shows up? That team can beat anyone in the world. Still a lot to be decided, but the general consensus will probably stay the same.
As far as what I'd like to see, this is it:
Pray for Porto.
The draw will be revealed at 1245 CET, which makes it 645 EST. Feel free to discuss/go bananas in the comment thread. I'll either be asleep or sweating and freezing my grapes off all at the same time, dreaming about Porto either way.