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Di Francesco Vows to Play His Best XI v Barca

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Here’s why I believe he’s making the right move.

Bologna FC v AS Roma - Serie A Photo by Mario Carlini / Iguana Press/Getty Images

There’s no question that Roma face a nearly insurmountable task at the Olimpico today. Turning around a 4-1 deficit against Barcelona would be about as impressive as climbing Mount Everest. For all intents and purposes, it would be just as Eusebio Di Francesco described it in his press conference, “A Miracle.”

Even though myself and any other sane Romanista would agree that he’s right, I applaud him for not mailing it in. I know that some fans would rather see EdF play a sort of second team and focus on Sunday’s derby at Lazio. However, I stand behind EdF’s vow to go with his best players.

“Why?” You ask. Here’s my rationale.

Pride

“We have to play with love. After that, we’ll think about the derby. We’ll go out with our best players. We have the chance to do something unthinkable, given they’ve practically never lost.

“We have a duty to try until it’s all over, and we will. It’ll be a miracle, if you want, but why can’t we make it happen?”-EdF

First and foremost, I have pride in being a Romanista and I want the players and coach to demonstrate just as much pride in the crest. I like how EdF speaks of that duty of trying until it’s over and demonstrating that pride. I never want to see my team give in, no matter how tall the obstacle or how tough the opponent. We’ve all seen Roma embarrassed on the big stage in Europe, and in my opinion, there’s been nothing more painful to witness. Before Roma ever truly compete on the European stage, they need to believe they can, and this won’t happen without having pride in defending the Roma crest.

Gaining Respect in Europe

This is the first time Roma have qualified for the quarterfinals of the Champions League in a decade. That’s a long time, especially in the sports world. Many careers don’t last that long. If Roma can only manage to make a cameo appearance this deep into the Champions League and then get mauled each time they do; how will the team ever gain the respects of Europe’s elite? If Roma can manage a positive result then maybe they can start to gain that respect. They need to become an undesirable draw on a regular basis rather than the opponent the big boys want in the Champions League. I Lupi need to live up to their name rather than play like sheep to gain that respect. Their next shot comes today.

AS Roma v UC Sampdoria - Serie A
Roma need to prove to their stars, like Alisson, that it’s worth hanging around another season.
Photo by Paolo Bruno/Getty Images

Attracting/Keeping Players

Yes, there is a large financial piece to signing new players and keeping star players in the squad. However, I’m sure there have been plenty of times that Roma have been passed over or left by players for more than financial reasons. If Roma can prove that they can hang with the big boys of Europe then the squad becomes a more attractive option for some players that may have previously been out of reach. In addition, some of those players currently in the squad who may consider leaving may stick it out another year, if they see that this team has the potential to do more. Seeing that could be the difference between an 8-2 aggregate loss to Barcelona versus say a 5-3 aggregate loss to Barcelona. It would be easier to convince a player like Alisson or Radja to give it one more shot, if they feel like they were a non-penalty call or bad bounce (off Manolas’ knee) away from truly giving Barca a run for their money. On the other hand, getting mauled 8-2 just says we have no shot to compete in Europe or Serie A. That’s when the stars pack their bags for greener pastures.

Lazio’s Europa League Match

I know all of us are at least peeking at the derby out of the corner of our eye, while we focus on Barcelona. However, let’s not forget that Lazio also have a European match ahead of them this week. Granted Salzburg isn’t Barca and Lazio lead that tie 4-2. However, I believe this plays into Roma’s hands. One would find it hard to imagine that Lazio would play less than their best with a spot in the Europa League semis in their grasp. On top of that, Lazio’s match is Thursday afternoon, which gives them 48 hours less rest than Roma before the derby. So even though playing our best XI on Tuesday might mean less than fully rested legs on Sunday, Lazio should be even less rested. If Lazio didn’t have a midweek fixture to contend with then I’d worry more about fatigue. However, I’ll take those extra 48 hours of rest for our players.

The Olimpico

AS Roma v Shakhtar Donetsk - UEFA Champions League Round of 16: Second Leg
Roma need to make the Olimpico their fortress in Europe.
Photo by Paolo Bruno/Getty Images

The best teams in Europe have a distinct home field advantage. That’s something Roma have to build at the Olimpico and eventually at the ‘Stadio della Roma’ once it’s built. The tifosi will be out in full force in support of the squad. If Roma can manage an early goal the stadium will erupt and help create an atmosphere that will at least make things uncomfortable for Barca, and push our best players to play their best. It would be a shame to see EdF run out a second team that gets jeered off the field by a packed Olimpico.

“Playing at the Olimpico? It’s always a great responsibility, regardless of how many people are in the stands,” said EdF.

With this in mind, he should give the fans what they paid to see, their heroes battling Barca tooth and nail for 90 minutes, win or lose.

Will It Pay Off?

In the end, only time will tell if EdF is making the right decision in running out his best lineup, in order to attempt to attain a miracle result. After all, even with his best there’s a chance Roma could still get handled at home by Barca. That could then lead to Roma performing poorly in the derby on Sunday and severely hurting their chances of clinching a return to the Champions League. However, in the moment, I believe that EdF is making the right call.