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Totti Today #113: French Friction

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Getting to know Roma's next EL opponent... and Mancini's whereabouts

UEFA Champions League: Lyon v Roma Photo by Ryan Pierse/Getty Images

So typical Roma. Without a Sevilla, Porto, Shakhtar, Zenit or Atletico, the remaining teams in the EL seem like a bunch of second-tier European wannabees packed together. APOEL, Rostov, Monchengladbach, Copenhagen, Krasnodar, three Belgians sides.Ironically, after the draw last Friday AS Roma will meet one of the two true top teams left in the competition: Olympique Lyon. Really, only Manchester United was worse, mainly due to those 7-1 nightmares I still have from the Champions League. Thanks, UEFA.

Speaking of the CL, Roma has a quite favorable history with the Frenchies. Who doesn't remember Mancini's magical goal at Parc Lyonnais in 2007, driving Reveillere mad and blasting it into the net of Coupet? Roma won 0-2 (hey, it's not 0-4 but we didn't complain back then) and advanced to the next stage. It was the good old days of Perrotta, Tonetto, Taddei, Daniele (who still knew what a razor looked like), Mexes and Pizarro. Things got a bit uglier when you looked at that bench: Rodrigo Defendi, Rosi, Ferrari (the human version, not the car although the car would do a better job at the back than Matteo), Wilhelmsson and Faty. Yikes.

So, you see a lot has changed since 2007, at both sides. Lyon was one of the hottest sides in Europe during those years, winning the French title seven times in a row, from 2002 to 2008. After that PSG got themselves a nice little sugar daddy and Lyon had to be content with a cup every now and then. Also this year the title is a distant dream, as not only PSG but also Monaco and Nice of all teams are waaaay ahead of Olympique. They probably won't even make the Champions League next season.

Two names in the squad are worth mentioning: striker Lacazette and Roma's derby hero Mapou. The first because he's Lyon's biggest threat and a true goal machine, the second because he's probably Lyon's biggest weakness. We, Romanisti, know that well. So Salah, Dzeko and co can surely trouble its defence. It's Lyon's attack that terrifies me.

As I already mentioned, there's Lacazette of course, and that other French prodigy Fekir, plus dangerous winger Ghezzal. Since January they also have Manchester United reject Depay in their ranks. On top of that, the midfield knows how to score a goal or give an assist: Valbuena, Gonalons, Tolisso, Darder... Hardly world beaters but they can frustrate anyone if they're at their best.

In the end, this should be doable for Roma. After all, what's the point of being in the EL or CL if you're gonna be afraid of a big team? Lyon, APOEL OR Ghent, The semies should remain the target, perhaps even the final. We know Roma can sometimes underrate an inferior opponent or completely vanish in a game when the stakes are low (see Astra Giurgiu away and Villarreal at home). This time they finally face their first big test in the EL and they need to show up, otherwise Lacazette and co will simply walk over us. These are the kind of games the players live and play for. It's in their hands now.

The first leg is only next week, March 9, but I can't wait for this matchup. I have a feeling that, just like ten years ago, it's gonna be a fun match.

Now, if someone can just find Mancini and give him a one-game contract please?