By coincidence some Eminem fans in the house? Then they’ll certainly remember those lines from the song Lose Yourself (also from the movie 8 Mile). But that’s probably the last thing Roma should do on Wednesday: lose. This is it boys. Finally. The big fish. Manchester. City.
Maybe the most important game from the season until now. More than Juve, Napoli or Bayern. It’s as clear as a drop of water: win and let’s party. Lose and be condemned to the European dungeon of the Europa League or even no Europe whatsoever after New Year. It’s all in Roma’s very own hands. I remember posting quite an inspired and stimulating post a while ago about the first CL game, at home against CSKA. Forget that one. This is true champions stuff. In or out. Up or down. Make or break. It’s money time. The Olimpico is ready, is Roma?
I assume you all know the complicated situation of group E by now: Bayern easily progresses while the other three teams are packed together with a mere 5 points out of 5 games. One can say no one of those deserves to go through with such a relatively weak overall performance, compared to the number 2 of the other groups like Juventus (9 points), Barcelona (12), Arsenal (10), Shaktar (8) etc. But to be fair to Roma, CSKA and City: it has been a very difficult and tight group and each of those three has every bit of chance of progressing along with Bayern. Only the team with the least nerves and most concentration and determination on this last matchday will earn the qualification. Hmm, nerves, concentration and Roma? A recipe for disaster…
So how’s the build-up for the game? Both sides have to deal with some injuries but still boost some fine, exciting football players so it promises to be an even match which could be decided in the final moments of the game. Yup, even more drama in our lives, why not? You know you wouldn’t say no to it. An early lead could make the Citizens nervous and force them to take risks. With Gervinho and Iturbe’s speed and Totti and Pjanic’ vision, that could benefit Roma. A lot of speculating of course, there could also be another 1-7 in store of us, who knows. Especially if we play like against Sassuolo. Speaking of the Neroverdi… Roma’s Olimpico rehersal wasn’t a good one. Morgan’s howler of the season was mind-baffling while the overall look and feel of the game was frustating and nervous. A spectacular win against Inter was followed by a last minute equalizer against Sassuolo, narrowly escaping a shameful defeat. Don’t say you’re used to it by now. Ah my Roman clusterfuck, you never truly left, did you?
Anyway, enough has been said about Sassuolo. Leasons must be learned. Sometimes by the hard way. Wednesday is a totally different matter. The kind of game the players live and thrive for. Basically the entire team is fit for City, bar the usual suspects (Castan: get well soon after your operation. Balzaretti: happy birthday! Torosidis: … errr, yeah let’s continue). Curiously, in the Premier League City are in the same position as Roma in Serie A: obvious second team of the league, behind a dominating leader (Chelsea). And yes they’re hungry as well. Since the takeover in 2008, the Arabian owners of City long for some European glory. It’s no secret the Champions League is their main target now after winning the FA Cup and two titles along the way.
Ironically, the American owners of Roma long for some European fame as well, albeit having a significant smaller trophy cabinet (read: zilch) since 2011. But appointing Rudi in the Summer of 2013 was a bull’s eye and Roma has gone from strength to strength. After disappointments in 2011-2012 and 2012-2013, failure made way for succes in 2013-2014. This season Roma made its comeback in the CL and again looks to be Juve’s only title contender.
Thanks to Rudi and some smart transfers, AS Roma left its mark in Serie A. But now they need to take Europe by storm. The next part of the so-called American strategy plan. And there’s no better and appropiate way to do that then surviving this group of death, eliminating the English and Russian champions and securing a possible Barcelona, Real or Chelsea confrontation in 2015. And the financial advantages that come with it of course. Don’t let them fool you, it’s all about the brand and money. Making Roma a force to be reckoned with, a healthy and famous club, able to attract the world’s best… I’m ok with it, as long as they respect the club’s history and it doesn’t hurt Roma in the long run. But in order to reach those ambitions, they need to take it to the next level. In proper Roman fashion. A duel to the death.
On Wednesday, history will repeat itself. A flashback of Rome 2000 years ago. Citizens versus wolves in a packed arena. Only one will survive. Who will come out on top? Let the games begin.