Not only Jay-Z had a hard-knock life, just talk against any Giallorosso around the world and he’ll give you a comprehensive lecture about the pain and agony of the football club called AS Roma.
After a splendid CL campaign until Wednesday, Roma was first in its group and only needed a draw at Atletico to advance to the next round (and pick up lots of money while doing so). Perhaps a rather daunting task for the Roma of the past, but Eusebio’s one? The one that held Chelsea in London and then trashed them 3-0 in Rome? The one that almost turned around a 2-0 defeat to a 2-3 win? Doable, for sure.
Yet, one ugly loss and we’re back into our usual, comfortable situation of whining, moaning and, just like Icarus, being dragged down to earth in a not so careful way. It is what it is, and most of us expected Roma to fight it out with Chelsea and Atletico until the very last game anyway, but still... When it’s so close you can almost smell it, like on Wednesday... I admit it hurts.
The chance to already secure CL continuation in November was a golden opportunity to ease the pressure of the Qarabag fixture and try some younger or fresher players in that packed December month (6 games!). After all the team needs a breather every now and then. But now the Giallorossi face a do or die game at the Olimpico and Eusebio will need to play his best 11, there will be no rest for guys like Kolarov, Perotti, Nainggolan or Dzeko. Thankfully Juventus is the only big match-up in December, but a ‘friendly’ against Qarabag would have been nice nonetheless.
In the end Roma still face an infinitely easier task than Atletico, who need to win at Chelsea and hope for a Roma draw. There’s a huge chance that Nainggolan and co will just finish the job against Qarabag, who have nothing to play for, and probably even in a convincing way. However, I can’t ignore that little devil on my right shoulder. It whispers ‘clusterfuck, clusterfuck’.
History tends to repeat itself. In the past easy jobs frequently turned into nightmares at Roma. Especially when the stakes were high or qualification was on the line (Spezia, Slovan Bratislava, Cluj, Middlesbrough, Porto spring to my mind). The current team looks more consistent and mentally stronger, but we’ll see against Genoa this weekend how much of this loss will get into the players’ heads.
Just when the squad gained momentum, just when we thought Monchi and co had it all worked out, this happens. A loss against Atletico is nothing to be angry about though. It happens to the very best, even Barcelona, Real or Bayern had to leave the Vicente Calderon without points. It’s just the timing that hurts the most.
For the first time since 2010-2011 Roma had a chance of progressing in the CL. And in what kind of fashion: Sending home one of the outsiders, Atletico Madrid, finalists in 2014 and 2016. Against Qarabag there are no excuses. Get out there and get the job done. It has been said so many times in Church, by me, Bren and the others. But this time it’s the real deal. Eyes on the prize, nothing else.
In terms of tennis: Wednesday was a match point. It went out. Luckily for us, there’s another one coming up very soon. And then Roma needs to hit an ace.