The last time Roma faced a two-nil hole on aggregate, things went well, just not well enough. Roma’s moral victory over Lyon in the second leg of their Europa League Round of 16 matchup was all well and good, but that 2-1 win was not enough for the Giallorossi to advance, leaving them holding the bag for yet another season. And, well, here are, Roma are looking erase another 2-0 deficit in order to advance in a competition.
Before we delve into this one, a quick look back at the first leg.
March 1, 2017: Lazio 2, Roma 0
Emerson Palmieri was heavily involved in the early stages of this match, nearly setting up two goals, each of which (both headers) sailed harmlessly into the keeper’s good graces. Roma’s devilishly handsome keeper, Alisson Becker, was not without his own moments of brilliance, twice denying the Lazio attack. Becker, however, could only hold the line for so long as Lazio was able to break the deadlock thanks to some questionable spacing by Roma’s defense. Lazio would double their lead in the second half thanks to Ciro Immobile, giving Biancocelesti the precious two goal advantage.
Roma v. Lazio: April 4, 20:45 CET/2:45 EDT. Stadio Olimpico, Roma.
With Daniele De Rossi injured and Kevin Strootman on the naughty list, Luciano Spalletti was forced to shuffle up his midfield over the weekend against Empoli, opting for a 3-4-2-1 with Leandro Paredes lining up alongside Radja Nainggolan in the center of the park. Radja and his young charge did well enough against the Azzurri, control the tempo of the match, but the real star was Edin Dzeko, whose brace temporarily gave him sole possession of the capocannoniere race, Andrea Belotti has since tied him.
Dzeko is, surprise, surprise, the key to victory tomorrow. In the first leg, Lazio effectively rendered him useless. While Dzeko managed 42 touches and seven shots, only one was on target, the header early in the first half. Of his seven attempts, three were blocked and three were off the mark. Point being, Lazio was able to deny him effective space, keeping Dzeko (on average) some 25 to 30 yards away from the goal, making him more a figurehead than a real threat.
On the few occasions in which Roma’s offense has been completely stifled, the opposing defense stymied Roma’s attack by stacking the middle of the defense, plugging Spalletti’s attack like so many leaves in a gutter.
So we can talk and quibble all we want about lineup selections and defensive assignments in the midfield, but the point is simple: Dzeko needs proper service if Roma has any chance of overcoming this deficit.
But if we harken back to that second Lyon match, Roma stormed the pitch with a ferocity we seldom see, so if they can bring that same spirit to tomorrow’s match, we might just stand a chance at advancing. With the Curva barriers down and Roma fresh off a victory, the spirits may be on their side for once.