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Totti Today #101: The Two-Faced Toss-up

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After the hugely dramatic and thrilling Sampdoria encounter, AS Roma and its fan base switch their focus to the less sexy Europa League and a trip to Plzen. Which is somewhere in Europe. I think.

Paolo Bruno/Getty Images

Well, that’s quite a change-over, isn’t it? From the thrilling and sensational win on Sunday in apocalyptic weather circumstances to a down-to-earth encounter against Viktoria Plzen, a team situated somewhere in the Czech Republic. From Italian Serie A to a midweek game against a fairly unknown entity. Really, on top of your head, name me one Plzen player… Yeah, thought so.

News flash: The game’s  on Thursday and not Tuesday or Wednesday. Those days are reserved for, yup, the Champions League fixtures. Ouch. Sorry, just wanted to push the knife a bit deeper into the giallorosso hearts and twist it around for a few seconds before pulling it out again faster than the speed of light, while licking the blood off the blade, swallowing it with pride and laughing maniacally in your face… Ahem, let’s continue.

While Sunday once again proved that AS Roma is nothing more than a Serie B side without a certain Francesco Totti (a bit exaggerated maybe but they still would have a hard time trying to qualify for the Europa League), Roma now face an opponent that is one huge question mark. We know they have performed below-par in the past against minnows on the European stage (Cluj, Middlesbrough, Basel, BATE…), but they have shown recently that they can dominate and even turn around games in spectacular fashion: Udinese, Sampdoria, the first 30 minutes against Porto for example.

As been the case so many times before with our beloved Roma, Thursday isn’t any different. We might as well ask Two-Face (Batman’s nemesis, superbly portrayed by Aaron Eckhart in The Dark Knight, just sayin’) to flip a coin if you want to know the possible outcome. Will they dominate and return with an easy peasy win or will they do a ‘Oops everyone, Roma happened’ on themselves and lose valuable points along the road?

It’s a toss-up. At this point they’re just too inconsistent and unpredictable. Now that I come to think of it, Two-Face sounds like the ideal nickname for this side, no? An ugly side (Porto, Cagliari) and a beautiful side (Udinese, Sampdoria). Two personalities in one body. Juve would be Batman of course, because they kick our asses each season. But let’s go back to football.

I guess a draw won’t be the end of the world since the other two teams are no particular big names too. A lot of points still need to be handed out after Thursday, but a good start is essential in this league nonetheless. The faster we are certain of that second round, the better. So Spalletti can go and experiment a bit with formations and tactics in the last game(s). Gerson, Lobont, Fazio, Seck, Nura, Grossi, Marchizza, Soleri,… Enough staff to tinker with and that way most of the first team can concentrate on Serie A in the months of November and December.

But let’s not get carried away too far. At this point Roma have zero points, as many as Plzen, Astra and Vienna. It’s not as bombastic as the CL but the players owe it to themselves, it’s their own fault they won’t face the likes of Real, City, PSG or Barcelona. They can start to straighten things by taking this competition seriously and giving 100% in each game. The fans demand it, rightfully so.

God I’ll miss that smooth CL tune at the start of each match, but there’s no use in crying over spilt milk. Roma’s in the EL and they better not put up a poor show and act like tourists. Let’s be serious: Winning this group is an absolute must, not only for our morale, but for the reputation (or what’s left of it) of AS Roma in Europe.

Go as far as possible. Do it for Francesco. For his first-ever European prize with Roma in his last season. It would be the almost perfect send-off.

The journey to the final starts this week, in the city of Plzen. And if I may add a small tip for the players and coach: Why not honor Zdenek Zeman while we’re in the Czech Republic? After all, the best defence is a good offence.