I have always had an uneasy relationship with the Europa League. It's not the competition anyone wants to be in, so you can't help but feel disappointed when your club is resigned to this fate, but if you're in it, you might as well win it. And for a club like Roma, who have gone over a decade without a title now, winning the Europa League could bring forth a new season of success in the City of Seven Hills, so we shouldn't take it lightly.
With four points through their first two group matches, things are looking good for Roma. Wearing their resplendent blue kits, Roma rolled over Istanbul on match-day one in a 4-0 drubbing, and were a second half goal from Wolfsberger way from being a perfect two-for-two in Group J, so it appears as though Paulo Fonseca has driven home the importance of this competition to his new squad.
Roma v. Borussia M.Gladbach. October 24th. 18:55 CET/12:55 EDT. Stadio Olimpico, Roma.
As is stands right now, Roma are in a dead heat with Wolfsberger, each taking four points through two matches while sporting an identical +4 goal differential, making tomorrow's match against Borussia Mönchengladbach a veritable must-win if Roma wants to wrap up the group stage sooner rather than later.
Mönchengladbach, or, as they're sometimes called, the Foals (one of my favorite bands btw) haven't fared well in the Europa League—taking only one point through two matches—but they are incredibly somehow in first place in the Bundesliga, one point ahead of Bayern Munich and Borussia Dortmund.
While they've received some decent performances from Frenchmen Alassane Plea and Marcus Thuram—7 goals and 6 assists between them—Gladbach's performance doesn't look entirely sustainable, to say nothing of Bayern's incredibly slow start. The Foals’ 15 goals forced and +8 differential are each fourth-best in the Bundesliga, which isn't terrible, but consider this: in only eight league matches, Mönchengladbach has been shutout two times, which, again, doesn't sound atrocious, but that's still a 25% clip. Sample size is a huge factor here, but something tells me their reign atop the table will be short-lived.
In the present tense, Roma and Mönchengladbach's mutual unfamiliarity and their mobile triage unit of injured players could make this an even money bet.
Check this out:
That is a combined 13 players likely to miss this match due to injury, and yet somehow Mönchengladbach are in first place in their league; incredible. I'm not going to pretend to know how Mönchengladbach have overcome those injuries, but as we discussed earlier this week, with serious injuries all over the pitch, Paulo Fonseca may be forced to get creative.
While we focused that earlier discussion on the forwards, without Lorenzo Pellegrini, Amadou Diawara, Henrikh Mkhitaryan, and now Bryan Cristante, Roma's midfield is woefully thin, leaving Jordan Veretout as the only nominal rotation piece still standing, and let's thank God for that.
Veretout's melange of skills is so well suited to Fonseca Football, but his value will really come to the fore now that he's the last midfielder standing. Without Veretout, I'd probably be losing sleep at the thought of Javier Pastore starting in the double pivot, but his relentless running and tactical intelligence makes this nightmare far more palatable.
Considering that this is their first-ever meeting, and that they're both bleeding with injuries, I wouldn't expect a lopsided match either way—this has all the makings of a taut one-goal affair, and if that is indeed the case, Roma's forwards have to find their way again,