If you're new to planet Earth, you may not be quite familiar with the football factory known as FC Barcelona. Winners of seven La Liga titles and four Champions League crowns in the past ten years alone, Barca has dominated domestic and continental competition for much of the 21st century, and when you factor in their influence on the Spanish National Team, winners of three straight major tournaments between 2008 and 2012, Barcelona has practically rewritten the history of the entire sport.
And, oh yeah, they're coming to Rome on Wednesday evening to begin the defense of their Champions League title. While Roma is rising amongst the ranks of Italian powerhouses, they don't yet have the swagger to stand toe to toe with Barca, but that doesn't mean the Catalans victory this week is an assumed one.
A lot of things will have to go right for Roma to pull off this upset—one which could change the face of the entire Champions League—so let's take a quick look a few players who absolutely essential at Roma's slim hopes for three points.
Daniele De Rossi
The simple notion of where he plays—defense or midfield—may decide the outcome of this match, but make no mistake, in order for Roma to pull this one off, they need a vintage performance from Danielino. We'll get into this a bit more during the standard preview, but in order for Roma to contend with Barca's impressive midfield, they'll need to set up a protective shell of sorts, one that keeps Andres Iniesta away from any effective space on the pitch.
In order to achieve that, De Rossi needs to be at his best—covering space laterally to break up passing lanes and providing an imposing presence in front of the defense. Without DDR patrolling the neutral zone and protecting the defense, Barcelona will have a field day exploiting Roma's defensive spine.
Plus, wouldn't you just love to see De Rossi put Messi on his ass?
With Luis Enrique's men sure to slow down the pace of play in order to maintain possession, Roma's genuine chances may be few and far between, and there may be no man more critical to converting those than the Egyptian Messi himself.
Barcelona isn't exactly a defensive dynamo, so you can carve them up and threaten the goal; the problem has always been how often can you do this? There's a reason they hold and hold and hold play; dictating the pace and direction of the run of play is central to tiki taka, to the extent that it still exists.
So, when Roma is in possession or when they find themselves on the counter attack, Salah is best equipped to create space and to stretch and pull the fringes of the Blaugranes defense. If Salah can get a step on Barca's fullbacks and create some havoc in the final third, he stands the best chance of turning this match on a moment of individual brilliance.
However, it will be his chemistry with the next man that might give the Giallorossi the biggest boost.
There's no verbose explanation needed here. Through three weeks, we've already seen what sort of impact Dzeko can have on a match, whether he's scoring or not. Dzeko's ability to hold up play and lay the ball off to Salah or Iago Falque will be key in creating chances in the final third.
Dzeko is bigger and stronger than virtually anyone on the Barca defense, one which may be missing Thomas Vermaelen to boot, so if Roma can stymie the Barcelona midfield, Dzeko's physicality in the box and skill in front of the goal could be the deciding factor.
As Roma fans, we're naturally conditioned to hope for the best but expect the worst. Over the years we've been privy to several keepers capable of making gravity-defying match changing saves only to fuck everything up the following weekend. While Woj hasn't shown any signs of mental fragility, the shattered psyche in all of us is already envisioning his first hiccup to occur when Roma has a chance at a monumental upset.
Through three weeks, one can make a case that Szczesny has been Roma's most valuable player, bailing them out twice already, his fingertips single handedly saving four points. Facing Neymar, Lionel Messi and Luis Suarez, we can only hope that Woj is up to the task once more
So those are just a few quick selections, what do you think? Who is Roma's most important player in Wednesday's match?