For all of its struggles during the first half of the season, Roma ended the 2018 calendar year on a high note with wins over Sassuolo and Parma. With those victories, the Giallorossi created some distance between themselves and the mid-table teams, while also playing themselves into a position to compete for a top four finish. Roma currently trails fourth place Lazio by just two points with exactly half of the season left to play.
Roma will have to be better during the second half, if it expects to finish among the Champions League places. Of course this starts with obtaining positive results more consistently against the bottom feeders of the league. EdF’s squad dropped too many points against teams hovering around the relegation zone in the first half, which is a big reason why it’s currently sitting outside the top 4. If Roma can improve in this area then Champions League qualification will likely come down to how it plays in some key fixtures.
Even though match-ups against Juve, Napoli, and Inter will likely garner the most interest because of their name value, other matches will likely be far more impactful in Roma’s quest to return to the Champions League group stage for the third straight season. If Roma can take the lion’s share of points out of these five matches, then any points taken off the top three sides will likely be icing on the cake of Champions League qualification.
Match Day 20- Torino (H)
Roma’s first league match after the winter break could be vital in setting the tone for the rest of the Serie A campaign. Torino currently sits ninth in the league, but that’s just three points behind sixth-place Roma. The Giallorossi have struggled this season after prolonged international breaks, and can’t let the winter break kill the momentum and rhythm that was built before New Year’s. If Roma can win this game it will build on the positivity of the Sassuolo and Parma victories, while at the same time pushing the Granata further out of top four contention. Meanwhile, with fourth place Lazio playing at Napoli, it’s likely Roma could leapfrog them with a victory. Conversely, a loss could keep Torino hanging around as a threat to Roma’s European aspirations or worse yet, set the Giallorossi into another downward spiral.
Match Day 21- Atalanta (A)
After a somewhat slow start, last year’s surprise outfit, Atalanta, has come on strong over the last couple of months. The Nerazzurri have played themselves into the Champions League conversation with notable results against Inter (4-1), Lazio (1-0) and Juve (2-2). La Dea gave Roma fits in their first match at the Olimpico; a track meet that finished 3-3, after the visitors jumped all over Roma. Atalanta raises its game against the big boys, especially at the Stadio Atleti Azzurri d’Italia. Roma will have to be on the top of its game to escape Bergamo with a positive result. If Roma can win this match they’d be able to push another team with Champions League aspirations to the wayside, whereas if they lose at the Atleti Azzurri, Atalanta can establish itself as even more of a threat to finish ahead of the big boys in the top four.
Match Day 22- Milan (H)
You may sense a pattern here. Roma’s opening stretch of matches will likely be crucial in its hope of securing Champions League qualification. Milan is the third straight team that Roma face, which sits within three points of the Giallorossi in the current league table, but the first it currently trails. Of course that could be different by the time they square off, however, Milan is one of the biggest threats to Roma’s fourth place aspirations. The Giallorossi lost late at the San Siro during the teams’ first match up, which sent the team into it’s first poor spell of the season. This time, at home, Roma will have to do better. Milan has had its own domestic struggles of late and Roma would love nothing more than to add to them, while potentially hopping over Gattuso’s side in the league table.
Match Day 26- Lazio (A)
The Derby della Capitale is already one of the matches that gets circled on Roman calendars annually. But this spring, the derby will likely carry just a bit more weight, if that’s possible. For the second straight year, Roma is in direct competition with its city rivals for a Champions League place. The Giallorossi took the first match between the two sides back in the fall, in what proved to be Lorenzo Pellegrini’s coming out party. Another big win could go a long way in setting the Lupi up for a top 4 finish. Just like last year, this fixture is set within days of a Champions League knockout stage second leg fixture, which could make an already complicated fixture even more complicated. EdF will have to make sure his squad isn’t looking ahead to Porto before taking care of business against the Biancocelesti.
Match Day 31- Sampdoria (A)
Marco Giampaolo’s side has been one of the surprise outfits of the first half of the season, hovering just three points behind Lazio in seventh place. Led by the timeless Fabio Quagliarella, Samp hammered Napoli early in the season, drew Lazio, and nearly did the same right before the winter break against Juve; had the tying goal not been disallowed by VAR. Roma smacked the Blucerchiati at the Olimpico, 4-1, back in November. So expect Samp to come out with a little extra motivation this time around. It’ll be interesting to see if the Genoa based side is still hanging around the top 4 in early April when the teams meet. This fixture could become even trickier if Roma qualify for the Champions League quarterfinals, which would be played just a few days later.