These are the type of games the players and especially the fans dream of, live for and pray for. Messi and co visit the Olimpico for group E’s first matchday. Yup, no Carpi, Sassuolo, Palermo or Atalanta this time. Not even a clash with Milan, Fiorentina or Napoli. This truly is the big one. FC Barcelona, who’ve won the CL three times in the last seven seasons (or four in the last ten seasons).
A team which was on the bucket list of most people in Church. We were poised to meet at least one powerhouse in the group stage, so why not immediatly aim for the stars, right? Roma already faced the Blaugrana in pre-season in August, a logical 3-0 loss in Catalonia but this is a totally different playground. A bigger, more consuming and intense one. Not for kids but grown men.
All right, it’s time to be the party pooper for a change. Football is fun, and Barcelona usually brings a lot of fans to the stadium. But this clash doesn’t bode well for Roma. It promises to be a hard and painful evening. An unspiring midfield of Keita-DDR-Radja against Rakitic-Busquets-Iniesta? No Totti in the projected lineup? Rudiger and Manolas vs Messi? Florenzi and Digne vs the dribbles of Neymar and Suarez? Avert your eyes or behold the Spanish inquisition in Rome, it’s your choice. But don’t say we warned you…
October 2014. Roma encounterd that other European giant, Bayern, at home. And we all know how that ended right? But four of the five members in defence that evening won’t feature on Wednesday: Yanga, Cole, Torosidis and De Sanctis. And they will be replaced by people who are undeniably far more talented. It’s not much but it’s something, right?
Does Roma even stand a chance against the mighty Barcelona? Some would opt for a kamikaze approach: 4-5-1 or 5-3-2. Daniele in defence, Maicon and Florenzi on the right, only one forward, lots of people in midfield, a red card here and there, park the bus, throw people in front of the goal… Destabilize Barca, frustrate them, try to squeeze out a 0-0 draw. Could work, just like Mourinho did with Inter in 2010. But Garcia is no Mourinho while Roma won’t have a genius like Sneijder playing in midfield (Pjanic comes close but is injured) or an experienced duo like Lucio-Samuel.
Then why not try to beat Barça at their own game: lots of possession, tiki-taka and free-flowing footy? Could work as well, in 2013 Bayern beat them 0-3 and 4-0 in the semies. Again, Bayern had some exceptional footballers, Roma currently has one (Totti). The 7-1 defeat against Manchester United in 2007, same situation: Rooney and Ronaldo destroyed Roma, two talents Roma can’t afford. The point is: don’t try to pretend you’re as good as them. You’re not. Roma must be humble and just try to have a good time. Concentrate yet enjoy this moment.
It may read as a surrender, giving an early forfait or waving the white flag but mind you it’s not the same. It’s not a shame to admit you’re the inferior team, it’s a shame if you don’t try on the pitch. This Roma CAN get a result against a team like Barcelona if they want to, but a lot of things must fall into place for that to happen. After all, we beat the vice-champions of Europe not so long ago.
We’ve come this far, we’ve reached the group stage so I reckon Roma is worth something. However, I’d put more pressure on the fixtures against Leverkusen and BATE than this one. And if things are still goalless after 70/75 minutes, why not dream of a point or even win? Let’s wait and see how the game develops, we’ll know soon enough if an upset is a reality or simply a dream.
Honestly, losing tomorrow is not a shame. Just don’t make matters unnecessarily worse. One 1-7 every seven years in the Champions League is enough.