If my math is correct, and let's face it, as someone who had to take trigonometry twice, you know it is, Bayern Munich can sew up Group E tomorrow with a victory over Roma. So, for all of you hoping to see Bayern's B team coasting in front of their home crowd, I'm sorry but that bubble must be burst. By orchestrating a come from behind victory over Dortmund this weekend, Bayern remains undefeated in all current domestic and European competitions and should be primed to secure the top spot in the Group of Death sooner rather than later. So, while this may not be a 7-1 blowout, Roma is most definitely up against the proverbial it.
I rarely, if ever, predict actual outcomes in these previews, but just know this: Munich is a perfect six for six at the Allianz in league play, outscoring opponents 20-2 in the process. So believe me when I tell you that the best case scenario here is Roma scrapping out a draw. However, if Roma are able to pull off that miracle of mediocrity, not only would that at least guarantee a tie for second place, they'd give Munich something to play for in their next fixture against Manchester City on the 25th. Draws are nothing to aspire to, but in this instance it would benefit Roma tremendously, particularly if City falters against CSKA.
Okay, but we all witnessed the putrid display in Naples this weekend, so what hope does Roma have of even mustering up one point against the best club in the world?
Fresh Legs, Fresh Ideas
Roma played exactly the way we expected them to and did not change their usual style of football
Those were the words of Thomas Muller following last month's shellacking at the Olimpico, but they could have just as easily been muttered by anyone from Sampdoria or Napoli; Roma is stagnating at the moment, that much is clear. And despite his protestations otherwise, the gap between Roma and Munich is quite large, so don't believe Pep's kind words following the first leg.
But, and there is always a but, might there be a way Roma can wrestle a point out of this match, if not the unthinkable, an actual victory?
Muller himself alluded to the changes Roma did make in the second half of the first leg, namely squeezing the spaces in Munich's attacking third, admitting they had a slight effect on the pace of play. However, given the lopsided scoreline at that point, we have to take that with a grain of salt; Munich didn't exactly have much on the line once they went up, oh, four or five goals, so whatever impact Garcia's changes had may have been coincidental and/or circumstantial.
But, let's suppose it's possible that Roma could actual force the issue in this match. How exactly could they unlock Guardiola's midfield and control the pace of play?
Simple, control the ball and take advantage of Munich's penchant for up-the-pitch possession, thereby exploiting them on the counter attack.
Easier said than done, of course, and it will take heaping doses of Daniele De Rossi, Radja Nainggolan and Seydou Keita eradicating passing lanes in the neutral zones and an otherworldly performance from Vasilis Torosidis and Jose Cholebas to act as outlets to Gervinho and Alessandro Florenzi...Incidentally, what the hell is going on with Juan Iturbe? Where is he?
But no matter who Garcia lines up, breaking apart a 3-5-2 is no easy feat and it will take a concerted effort from the midfield to be judicious and swift in their decision making. However, if they can manage to break through the midfield, Gervinho and Florenzi are more than capable of spreading apart Munich's back three.
Then there is, of course, the small matter of who starts in the middle, Francesco Totti or Mattia Destro? We've discussed the tactical implications numerous times, but looking at Totti's recent performances, it might simply be a matter of fatigue rather than a sign of decline or a glaring tactical inefficiency. Totti is coming off a rough three-match stretch, starting with the debacle in the first leg, while Destro has scored in the last two matches in which he started.
There are benefits to starting either man in this match. Totti's distribution to the wings would assuredly go a long way into spreading Munich's back three apart, but he would need to break through that five-man minefield himself; if he gets too stuck in the center of the park, he'll have no room to create. On the flipside, Destro's ability to get into the area, not mention his ability to work with Gervinho, could pull apart Bayern's back three in a more direct and meaningful way.
Food for thought, I suppose, but something has got to give; Garcia needs to shake things up and get Roma back on track. Walking out of the Allianz with any sort of decision will go a long way to brightening spirits around the Eternal City, not to mention making Roma's passage to the knockout stages more feasible.