Tomorrow evening AS Roma host Bologna FC 1909, founded in, yup, 1909. A team which can be described in one sentence: "They were better during the interbellum." Bologna won a nice total of 7 Scudetti, but 6 of them between WW I and WW II. The seventh they won in the swinging sixties. A long time ago indeed, even Dhaw or Bren weren't born back then. After their last Scudetto, not that much happened in Bologna. 2 Coppe Italia and one UEFA Intertoto win (who remembers that ugly tournament?) in 1998. Plus some visits to the cellar of Italian football. They narrowly made it back to Serie A last season via play-offs in Serie B and, as with most of the Italian mid-table teams, a lot of managerial changes were made in recent years. Five coaches in the last two seasons. 14 (!) in the previous ten. Pioli lasted a whole three seasons there between 2011 and 2014, a goddamn miracle.
The away game in November was a distaster. 2-2 on a soaked Dall'Ara pitch, three penalties were given, two for Roma and one for Bologna, in the 87th minute. Destro scored and Roma waisted 2 valuable points in the end, those would've come in handy in the race for second place. I won't post the highlights of that horrible game, it made me sick and I won't spoil your day doing that. For the sadomasochists, one word: YouTube. And to make matters worse, a few days later Roma lost 6-1 in Barcelona. And then 0-2 against Atalanta. And a bit later the Coppa elimination against Spezia. Clearly Murphy's Law. In short, Bologna was the start of a truly horrid period for Roma tifosi. One of the worst in recent times.
But look at the proud Giallorossi now: 9 wins in their last 10 games. Firmly in third place and fresh of a spectacular derby trashing, one of the biggest Roma derby wins since 2002. Comparing both Roma teams then and now is heaven and earth, especially the mentality. A tonload of goals scored but sadly also rarely a clean sheet. The last time was against Palermo on February 21. True, under Spalletti Roma never conceded more than one goal in Serie A but it would be nice to once again see a clean sheet.
It should be doable against this Bologna side, a side which misses its most flamboyant striker and top scorer. And look, he also happens to be an ex-Roma player, Mattia Destro! One of our famous enigma's, this kid. Once a future star and hailed as Italy's hope in attack, now playing for Bologna at the age of 25 years, while he should be on his peak. Ironically, Roma now seem to have an even better Italian prodigy in their hands, El Shaarawy. 6 goals in 9 games, not bad for a newbie in January.
The most notable absentee in Roma's camp is Radja, who's suspended. Maybe not a bad timing since he can use some rest and I'd rather miss him against Bologna than say Napoli or Milan. All the rest pretty much got a green light for tomorrow's game. Predicting the line-up won't be that hard, Keita or Dani will fill in for Radja, while Spalletti could also go for an attack-minded 4-2-3-1 with the likes of SES, Salah, Perotti and
Totti Dzeko causing havoc in Bologna's final third.
Their defence doesn't include big names, but don't underestimate them, it is quite sturdy. They only conceded 36 goals up till now, the 8th best defence of the league together with Torino. So don't expect a walk in the park, Roma must start this game with the utmost concentration. It could transform into a frustrating evening if it's still 0-0 after the hour mark. That said, this is another must win in the race for top 2, no excuses.
That and the fact that we want revenge for that grotesque Saturday back in November. In this case, Spaghetti Bolognese is a dish best served cold.