In American sports when the playoffs are approaching the importance of home field advantage is always discussed. Whether it be the ghosts of the old Yankee Stadium stirring up fear in the visiting team or the deafening noise of a packed NFL stadium interfering with the snap count of a visiting offense, there is such a thing as home field advantage. Just like an NFL team getting their “12th Man” behind them, Roma have had a uomo in piu (extra man) it seems in this Champions League. That 12th man I’m talking about is, of course, the Romanisti that have packed the Stadio Olimpico.
Tonight, in Rome will be no different. Roma have promoted painting the city giallorosso with their social media campaign #coloriamolacitta, but tonight there will be something else painted giallorosso. The Olimpico will be packed to the gills with 60,000 singing, chanting, and screaming fans who will be hungry for their beloved team’s first European Final since 1982. The hunger has been building for decades.
Even though the mountain is tall, in the form of a 5-2 deficit after last week’s meltdown at Anfield, the fans still have belief, however small that the mountain can be scaled. That hope and belief is of course fueled by the miracle that occurred in similar circumstances against the once indomitable Barcelona. The Olimpico proved that it can be hell on Earth for visitors when the hunger and determination of the players matches that of the fans.
Give the fans what they want; 11 men, as hungry as rabid, bloodthirsty wolves, and they will create an atmosphere that can intimidate the best teams in the world. Roma will have to use that to their advantage today. Yes, Liverpool are a great team who have overcome some of the biggest venues in England this season. However, they lack European experience and the pressure is on them to hold the lead in a raucous environment. Roma, meanwhile, is playing with nothing to lose, similar to their match against Barca.
So far in this Champions League campaign, Roma have yet to concede a goal at home in the Champions League. The likes of Chelsea, Atletico, Shakhtar, and Barca were all unable to penetrate Allison’s net. If that occurs again today and Roma can find an early goal similar to the Barca game, than all bets are off. The Olimpico will begin to sound like an old Roman battle ground with De Rossi leading the charge like a general of antiquity. If that happens than Liverpool better watch out because Roma will have unleashed their secret weapon: Stadio Olimpico.