I don’t want to write too much about Roma’s last match here, because boy was that an embarrassment. I hate to think about how many 7-1 Roma losses I’ve seen in the past five years, so I just have to hope that this is the last one I’ll see for quite some time (although I’m skeptical). The most important thing for Roma right now is to move past that gut-punch, because although the quest for the silver star has been once again put on hiatus, there’s still the matter of trying to obtain a spot in the Champions League for the 2019-2020 season.
Of course, it wouldn’t be Roma if a defeat like Wednesday’s wasn’t immediately followed up by perhaps the most important match of the season. For the twenty-second match day, Roma will be hosting Milan, the club currently one point ahead of Roma in the table and arguably their biggest competition for the last Champions League spot. A win here will essentially count for double; on the flip side, a loss will hurt twice as much, and barring an incredible run of form to end the season, may spell doom to Roma’s Champions League hopes.
August 31, 2018: Milan 2, Roma 1
Roma lost to Milan the first time they played each other this season, and you can definitely argue that Milan has only improved since then. By jettisoning Gonzalo Higuain and picking up Krzysztof Piątek (who I may begin to refer to as Copy And Paste 2.0), Milan ditched an uninspiring starting striker and replaced him with one of the most in-form strikers in Europe. Piątek may not be a household name just yet, but if he can replicate his form from Genoa in a Rossoneri kit, the rest of Serie A should be very very worried.
Particularly compared to Milan, Roma’s winter mercato was a dud. There were certainly problems to be fixed, including finding a true backup for Daniele De Rossi or at least trying to gain some defensive cohesion, but instead of looking for solutions outside of the club, Monchi simply sent Luca Pellegrini on loan and crossed his fingers that the players currently at Trigoria could sort everything out. This winter mercato actually marks the first one where Roma hasn’t bought or loaned a single player since the American takeover in 2011. Considering Roma’s precarious place on the table, that may not have been the best move, but Monchi and Eusebio Di Francesco are adamant that the Roma that exists today can push forward in the Champions League and Serie A. It remains to be seen if they’re right, or just blowing a lot of hot air.
Roma v. Milan: February 3rd. 20:30 CET/2:30 EST. Stadio Olimpico, Roma.
Speaking of hot things, despite that loss I promised I wouldn’t talk about, Di Francesco’s seat doesn’t appear to be particularly hot, at least in the short term. Il Tempo says that Monchi and Pallotta would rather wait until the end of the season to make a managerial change, with the hopes that someone better than Paulo Sousa might be interested in the job. That means that barring a complete and total collapse, Roma will be Di Francesco’s to manage at least until June. Will EDF see this as a chance to prove he belongs at the Stadio Olimpico and find a way to fix Roma’s seemingly perpetual mentality issues? Or will he remain stubborn, change little, and drag Roma’s Champions League chances down with him?
This match against Milan should be seen as the bellwether for the rest of the season. An emphatic win would show that somewhere, deep down, Roma does have some self-respect and understanding of its undeniable levels of talent. A draw or a loss means that Romanisti should just accept 2018-2019 as a lost season. If the latter does indeed happen, I just hope that Daniele De Rossi sticks around for at least one more year. I’d hate for him to go out on a low note.