The formula for Roma to advance to the knockout rounds of the Europa League is about as straightforward as it could be: Don’t lose on Thursday and the Giallorossi will qualify out of Group J. There is even the potential for Roma to win the group, but they would need help. All of the permutations can be found here on the official site.
With that in mind, advancing comes down to one team and one team only: Roma. The Giallorossi control their own destiny in spite of controversial dropped points in both matches against Borussia Mönchengladbach. All that stands in the way of the Giallorossi is bottom of the Group J table Wolfsberger.
Wolfsberger vs. Roma: December 12th, 21:00CET/15:00EST Stadio Olimpico, Rome.
Despite their position in Group J, Roma will be wise not to take the Austrian wolves lightly. Wolfsberger has no chance at knockout round qualification, but are capable of a big road win. The Austrians defeated Mönchengladbach 4-0 in Germany to open group play.
After that, they faded picking up only one other point in Europa League action: a 1-1 draw at home against the Giallorossi back in October. Wolfsberger has lost its last three in group play, without scoring a goal. In the meantime, domestically Wolfsberger has also lost three of its last four.
In the first match up back on match day 2, Roma controlled the lion’s share of possession 69/31% and out-chanced the hosts with 19 attempts to Wolfsberger’s 9. However, all that was for naught because the Giallorossi were wasteful and unable to put the match away after going up 1-0 on Leonardo Spinazzola’s 27th minute goal. That wastefulness would come back to bite the Giallorossi in Austria, as the hosts equaled the match on a cracker of a goal by Michael Liendl in the 54th minute.
With Roma hosting this one, more of the same should be expected in terms of possession and chances. However, the Giallorossi will have to be more clinical in front of goal to avoid putting themselves in a precarious position. Wolfsberger is a hard working side, but an early goal or two could be enough to see off the visitors who have nothing but pride to play for.
The Giallorossi will have to deal with some key absences for this one—namely Chris Smalling. With that in mind, Federico Fazio will have to step into Smalling’s shoes and ensure that Roma can maintain its strong recent defensive record. Meanwhile, with Dzeko back in the starting XI, Roma will hope to create more than it did Friday against Inter. The players behind Dzeko, whether that be Ünder, Pellegrini, Zaniolo, Perotti, or Mkhitaryan will have to create chances for the Bosnian Bomber and each other. The Giallorossi will have to unlock the firepower that has been missing of late.
Roma should have plenty of talent and motivation in this one to achieve the necessary result to advance; even with the absences. However, those of you that have followed this club long enough know that Roma has made a meal of what seemed like walks in the park before. This current incarnation of the Giallorossi seems to have a new mental fortitude in the mold of its manager. This match will show just how much the manager has rubbed off with the way the players approach this match.
Perotti: “We’re on the right track – we could have done better in some games, but we’re in good form. I’m very confident in this team and this coach. We are capable of going far in this competition, although there are other big teams arriving from the UCL.”
As Diego Perotti stated in the pre-match press conference, this team aspires to go deep into this competition. Making those aspirations a reality begins with this match.