Besides the potential for glory and untold millions, the other benefit of playing in the Champions League is that it serves as a distraction for all your domestic woes. In this instance, Roma will have no time to dwell on their miserable luck over the weekend, not with Bayer Leverkusen coming to town in what is an absolute must win match.
Having mustered only two points through their first three group stage matches, Roma sits firmly in the bottom of Group E, two points behind second place Bayer and a full five points behind group leading Barcelona, off whom they took one of their two points earlier in the fall.
Roma and Bayer have a bit of a strange, albeit short, history. In their last three meetings, dating back to the 2004 Champions League, the two sides have played to an aggregate score of 7-7. That's right, three matches spread out over 11 years and they've been completely Even Steven, throwing up 1-1, 2-2 and 4-4 score lines.
Hey, speaking of which, let's take a quick look back at the first leg!
October 20, 2015: Roma 4, Bayer 4
This was a wild one in every sense of the word. After conceding a penalty in only the fourth minute of the match, which was promptly converted by Javier Hernandez, Roma found themselves in a 2-0 hole by the 19th minute. However, in true Roma fashion, they came roaring back. Led by Daniele De Rossi, the Giallorossi rattled off four unanswered goals and had, with a 4-2 lead in the 80th + minute, seemingly seized control of the match.
I'll spare you the gory details—plus you can just watch the clip above—but Roma blew this one in the most Roma way possible, coughing up two goals in only two minutes, throwing a much needed victory out the window.
However, all hope is not lost. A victory on Wednesday would vault Roma back into second place in group E, barring some sort BATE-sized miracle. So, how can Roma reclaim their Champions League destiny?
Keep The Foot on The Gas
Despite the weekend's disappointment, we should feel confident that Roma is heading in the right direction. The attack has looked better—both in form and function—than it has since Garcia's debut season, while the defense has managed to, at the very least, keep Roma in matches; not ideal, but we've certainly seen worse in recent seasons.
So if we ask how can Roma win this match, the answer is simple: keep doing what they're doing. Roma's speed, both on the flanks and even in the center of defense, is nearly unparalleled in the global game, traits they must continue to exploit if they're to overwhelm their German guests on Wednesday, but it's not quite that simple unfortunately.
As we saw nearly all last season, and intermittently through the fall, once an opponent is able to counter that threat, Roma are effectively up a creek without a paddle. Ah, but therein lies the beauty of the Edin Dzeko signing, at least in theory. Dzeko is unlike any other striker this team has had since their six month flirtation with Luca Toni—Dzeko's presence, while not necessarily meant to put an end to the wing-oriented play, was supposed to bring balance to the attack while also providing another, more central and more formidable option, one which would counter and complement Roma's wing play.
Indeed, when we look at the pattern of goals Bayer has conceded in domestic play, Dzeko looks less like an option and more like a requirement. Out of the 14 goals Bayer has conceded in league play, nearly half have come dead-center in the penalty area, ranging from about two to twelve yards out. In other words, right where Dzeko makes his money.
So while Roma can and probably will outrun Bayer on the flanks, they simply must get Dzeko more involved. Although he wasn't able to beat Handanovic over the weekend (but then again, who was?), the chances—genuine ones—were there. Sooner or later those chances will find their way into the back of the net.
But, whether he's scoring or not, an engaged and involved Edin Dzeko makes Roma more dynamic, more dangerous and more effective, and that is a recipe for continental success.