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Previewing Roma’s Possible Quarter-Final Opponents

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At this point in the competition, there are no easy outs.

AS Roma v Shakhtar Donetsk - UEFA Champions League Round of 16: Second Leg Photo by Paolo Bruno/Getty Images

Given all the turnover Roma experiences this summer, and all the highs and lows we’ve experienced since then, not to mention the doom and gloom when Roma was drawn into the prohibitive group of death with Chelsea and Atletico Madrid back in August, it would be easy to call everything beyond this point gravy. We never expected to make it this far, so no matter what happens we’re satisfied, right?

While it is tough to avoid that mental trap, Roma have reached this point on their own merits—escaping that group of death and fighting back to overcome a first leg deficit—so they do actually have a leg to stand on believe it or not.

So, with that in mind, I assembled some of the crew to weigh and measure Roma’s potential opponents in the next round.

Sevilla

Manchester United v Sevilla FC  - UEFA Champions League Round of 16: Second Leg Photo by Michael Regan/Getty Images

Path to the Quarters: Defeated Manchester United 2-1 (agg)

League Position: 5th in La Liga

Storyline

We’ll start with the obvious--it’s Monchi’s former team. While he’s not quite on the Francesco Totti level, Monchi means an awful lot to the Sevilla faithful, so drawing his former team in the quarterfinals is a lazy writer’s dream come true. Led by the dynamic Pablo Sarabia, Sevilla is somehow miraculously still in La Liga’s top five despite playing to a -6 goal differential. Part of their success is quite simply their depth: Sevilla has six players with at least three goals, and three with exactly six league goals, while Wissam Ben Yedder has lit up the CL with eight goals already.

Can Roma Win?

Absolutely. Outside of the Monchi storylines, Sevilla profiles as the other “small” club to reach the Quarterfinals, and naturally seem like the team you’d want Roma to draw, right? While it’s never quite that cut and dry, on paper this would seem like Roma’s best chance to move onto the final four. Sevilla’s defense is definitely paper thin, and Roma has more than enough punch to break through.

Favorability Rating: Like a hot, fresh pizza laden with your favorite toppings.


Manchester City

Stoke City v Manchester City - Premier League Photo by Michael Regan/Getty Images

Path to the Quarters: Defeated Basil 5-2 (agg)

League Position: 1st in the Premiership by, like, a lot

Storyline

Roma and Manchester City have actually met in recent Champions League history, back in the 2014-2015 group stage. While Roma managed only one point from those two contests, Francesco Totti etched his name in Champions League history as the oldest man to ever score in the competition, so there’s that. Interesting point of trivia: Dzeko and Aleksandar Kolarov were with the Citizens back then. Time’s change of course, Roma are in a dog fight for third/fourth place in Serie A, while City is running away with the Premiership. So while their paths have been somewhat divergent, if Roma were going to play the role of Cinderella, toppling City would go a long way to making that fairytale come true, plus it would give us the scintillating Kevin De Bruyne vs Radja Nainggolan matchup.

Can Roma Win?

It’s probably the toughest task among the seven possibilities, but they did actually drop two matches during their march to the quarterfinals, to Donetsk in the group stage and Basel in a meaningless second leg in the Round of 16, so there is a precedent of sorts. Though there is a small matter of their 26-3-1 domestic record. Pep’s posse is perhaps the most talented team in the world, so this is probably our worst case scenario.

Favorability Rating: Like getting tuberculosis in America with minimal insurance.


Juventus

Juventus v Atalanta BC - Serie A Photo by Emilio Andreoli/Getty Images

Path to the Quarters: Defeated Tottenham 4-3 (agg)

League Position: 1st in Serie A

Storyline

What’s not mouthwatering about an all Italian quarterfinal matchup? Juve have been public enemy number one for Roma over the last seven years in Serie A. The Bianconeri have dominated the league, winning the last six Scudetti while they seem poised to make it seven. Roma have often played second fiddle over that time and it’s entirely possible that the Giallorossi would’ve won a Scudetto if it weren’t for Juve’s supremacy. With all of their dominance in Italy, there’s nothing Juve crave more than European glory. What better way to crush Juve’s European dreams than by knocking them out of the Champions League?

P.S. Did I mention it’s also a chance to payback Judas aka Miralem Pjanic?

Can Roma Win?

It would be difficult to defeat the best team in Italy over the course of two legs but, in short, the answer is yes. Even though Roma have had less than stellar results against the Bianconeri (3W, 1D in their last 10 Serie A matchups), one would think that this would be one of the more favorable matchups after Sevilla, and perhaps Liverpool. Roma tend to find goals hard to come by on most European nights and this has low scoring potential, which could be favorable. The teams often play low-scoring matches head-to-head which would likely carry over to Europe. Roma are familiar with Juve’s style of play, so perhaps a familiar opponent would ease the nerves a bit and allow Roma to play up to their potential.

Favorability Rating: Like asking Santa for a Red Rider; it could be lots of fun but you might shoot your eye out.


Real Madrid

Eibar v Real Madrid - La Liga Photo by Juan Manuel Serrano Arce/Getty Images

Path to the Quarters: Defeated PSG 5-2 (agg)

League Position: 3rd in La Liga

Storyline: Revenge. The last time that Roma advanced to the Champions League knockout stage in 2015-16 they were eliminated by Los Merengues. Roma played Real tough in both legs, but were left with plenty of regrets when their less than clinical finishing let them down. The Giallorossi lost both legs of that Round of 16 matchup by matching 2-0 scorelines. I Lupi would love nothing more than a chance to payback Ronaldo & Co. The matching score lines dropped Roma’s all-time record v Real in the Champions League to 3W-6L-1D. However, there is some good history to reflect on. Ten years ago, Roma had one of it’s most famous Champions League victories. The Giallorossi won in the Spanish capital 2-1 to take them into the quarterfinals on aggregate, 4-1. This time the stakes are higher with the potential to add an even more famous victory to Roma lore.

Can Roma Win? Real Madrid, is always a daunting task, especially over the course of two legs. Just ask PSG. They were thumped 5-2 on aggregate in the Round of 16 by los Merengues. However, despite boasting the world’s best player in Ronaldo and title of defending Champions, there are some kinks in los Blancos armor this season. They currently sit third in La Liga, behind rivals Barcelona, by an astounding 15 points. They were also eliminated from the Copa del Rey on away goals by Leganes in the quarterfinals. In addition, they finished runner-up to Tottenham in their Champions League group. So even though beating Real Madrid would be a difficult task, their results this season show they are beatable. Roma would have to play nearly flawless on defense and be more clinical on offense than their last meeting with Madrid, but victory is achievable.

Favorability Rating: Like approaching a model in public. You know, when you’re ugly.


Bayern Munich

RSC Anderlecht v Bayern Muenchen - UEFA Champions League Photo by Dean Mouhtaropoulos/Getty Images

Path to the Quarters: Defeated Besiktas 8-1 (agg)

League Position: 1st in Bundesliga since 1957, Pepperidge Farm remembers!

Storyline: See Real Madrid: Revenge. Surely you will remember the 1-7 defeat AT HOME against the Germans in 2014? Robben, Müller, Ribery and co drove us crazy and annihilated/humiliated Roma in front of its own fans and the whole of Europe. Unfortunately Bayern is still that good old juggernaut and one of the prime candidates to win the CL, especially now that PSG are eliminated. The Germans are a well-oiled machine and Ribery, Robben and Müller are still wearing the colors of Bayern. A second chance against Bayern would be nice because Roma’s changed a lot since the Rudi Garcia era, so losing 1-5 would be considered an improvement (I kid, I kid). Back in 2014 we didn’t have Dzeko, Alisson, Kolarov or Ünder so it’s worth a shot. Not everything around Bayern is doom and gloom by the way, remember the remarkable 3-2 win in 2010? Roma fought back from 0-2 to win 3-2 in one of its finest CL games ever. On the other hand, Roma has been rather invisible every time they visit München, losing 2-0 twice without being even close to a draw.

Can Roma Win? Very unlikely but hey, every game starts with 0-0. I believe City, Barca and Real are a tiny bit better than Bayern but German teams are always a tough challenge. The best days of Robben and Ribery are behind them, but they still have guys like Müller, Rodriguez and Lewandowski to trouble our defenses. Their attack is menacing but in midfield and defense I can see some cracks opening up. Dzeko, Radja and Ünder could at least make this tie more balanced than in 2014. Don’t get me wrong, Roma still needs to be 110% in order to have a chance of beating Bayern, but in only 180 minutes anything can happen in football. And Alisson will take care of Lewandowski.

Favorability Rating: Like ordering a big pint of cold German beer but choking on it halfway through.


Liverpool

Liverpool v FC Porto - UEFA Champions League Round of 16: Second Leg Photo by Shaun Botterill/Getty Images

Path to the Quarters: Defeated Porto 5-0 (agg)

League Position: 4rd in Premier League

Storyline: Salah. Salah, Salah, Salah. Ever since the Egyptian went to England last Summer, this club has been a pain in my ass. They simply robbed Roma of a godlike talent like Mo, for two pennies and a bag of Fruit Loops. What makes this matchup extra special are the American ties between Liverpool’s owners (Fenway Sports) and Roma’s. A lot of prestige is at stake, which American ownership did the best deal? Liverpool has a lot of interesting players like Firmino, Can and Mane, but all eyes will be on one man and one man only: Salah. Liverpool is a sturdy and decent team, but way behind City and on par with Tottenham or Chelsea. They probably won’t win the CL this season, but they will make life a living hell for each team that they face.

Can Roma Win? For me, Liverpool is my second favorite draw after Sevilla, if we purely think of surviving and progressing to the semis. City, Real or Barca are pure horror, but Liverpool could be a very entertaining fixture, with a 50-50 chance for both teams. Salah’s return to Rome will be a hot affair, I can tell you that. If Eusebio can somehow come up with a plan to isolate Salah, Roma has a chance. Their defence consists of guys like Klavan, Matip and Lovren so it’s not on par with say Juve or Real. Roma already beat down an English side in this year’s CL, so I dig my chances with Merseyside Red. Oh, and there’s also this little matter from 1984, the lost European Cup Final, to rectify.

Favorability Rating: Like a painful meeting with your stupidly hot ex who’s rich now and has a new loverboy while you settle for romanticism and date someone ordinary.


Barcelona

FC Barcelona v Chelsea FC - UEFA Champions League Round of 16: Second Leg Photo by Shaun Botterill/Getty Images

Path to the Quarters: Defeated Chelsea 4-1 (agg)

League Position: 1st in La Liga

Storyline: Barcelona are perhaps the world’s most ubiquitous team in any sport. From rural towns, to major metropolises, to Pacific atolls, Barca’s colors are everywhere, and it sickens me. Yeah, I get it, Messi is unreal, but I’ve just never seen the appeal in this club. But I digress, Barca are ones again the Lords of La Liga thanks in large part to a combined 45 goals and 18 assists (La Liga only) from Lionel Messi and Luis Suarez. With an eight point lead over Atletico Madrid, Barcelona’s Spanish title seems safe, giving them ample time to focus on erasing their (gasp) three year Champions League title drought.

Can Roma Win? Despite a 6-1 shallacking in their most recent meeting in November of 2015, Roma has historically played Barcelona pretty tough, registering a pair of 1-1 draws and, get this, a 3-0 win! If we look to that 2015 group stage matchup as an example, Roma simply has to play picture perfect defense and hope that Alessandro Florenzi chips the keeper from midfield again. In all seriousness, Roma has shown an impeccable ability at shutting opponents down in this competition, so if they can harness that power for two more nights, they could do the unthinkable.

Favorability Rating: Eating a day old Taco Bell $5 buck box before taking a transcontinental flight in which you’re stuck in the middle seat and the guy in the aisle is a heavy sleeper.

So you’ve heard our say, what’s yours?

Poll

Which opponent would you prefer in the Quarterfinals?

This poll is closed

  • 24%
    Liverpool
    (128 votes)
  • 4%
    Barcelona
    (22 votes)
  • 55%
    Sevilla
    (287 votes)
  • 1%
    Bayern Munich
    (8 votes)
  • 4%
    Real Madrid
    (22 votes)
  • 0%
    Manchester City
    (5 votes)
  • 8%
    Juventus
    (43 votes)
515 votes total Vote Now