With two matches remaining on the docket, €100 million in Champions League revenues fresh in the coffers and a ticket into next season’s competition, Roma didn’t have much to play for this evening when Juventus came to town. Outside of forestalling the Old Lady’s celebration, and the always wonderful feeling that comes from taking it to Juve, Eusebio Di Francesco’s side was a little thin on motivation.
However, much like he did heading into the second leg against Barcelona, EDF went balls to the wall when all common sense and good reason suggested otherwise. With the exception of Kostas Manolas and Kevin Strootman, EDF opted for much of his 2018 nominal starting lineup, with Edin Dzeko flanked by Stephan El Shaarawy and Cengiz Ünder in attack, Radja Nainggolan, Lorenzo Pellegrini and Daniele De Rossi in the midfield, with Federico Fazio, Juan Jesus, Aleksandar Kolarov and Alessandro Florenzi in defense, and the Babe Ruth of keepers, Alisson, minding the net.
Despite the lack of discernible motivation at hand, Roma came out guns blazing, putting the Old Lady on her heels from the first whistle. With seven shots, 54% possession and 87% passing, Roma had the better of the statistical battle in the first half, but as has so often been the case this year Roma came up short in the final third, skying a few chances in the first half that, as it turned out, would have won the match.
And that was really the long and short of this one: Roma played exceptionally well, particularly in the first half, but the lack of juice in this match was clear as day. Thanks to some favorable outcomes earlier in the round, Roma’s main objective—qualifying for next season’s Champions League—was accomplished for them, leaving them with (as we said) very little to play for, resulting in a rather dull affair. While this wasn’t exactly a biscotto, Juventus didn’t seem to be going full tilt either, as the lone point they wrung from this match was worth its weight in gold.
So, yeah, that’s about it—37 of 38 matches are in the books and Serie A is all but decided, with the battle for third place being the only point of contention at the top of the table. It will be interesting to see how Di Francesco approaches next week’s season finale at his old stomping grounds—will he make a move to secure third place or might we actually see the likes of Rick Karsdorp, Luca Pellegrini and Elio Capradossi?