While the Champions League draw was held at 6PM with all the necessary oohs and aahs, between all the major players (Ronaldo, Messi, Van Dijk, Alisson) and famous sport directors, including Sneijder and Cech as ball boys, the Europa League draw was a lot less fancy and simpler: 1PM, get it done and get it over with! Poor EL, still the bridesmaid, never the bride.
Anyway, this afternoon AS Roma was drawn into pot 1 so the Giallorossi avoided teams like Arsenal, ManU, Sevilla, Sporting, CSKA and Porto. Too bad actually, because it could have at least felt like a Champions League group if Roma got those names. Nevertheless, the results are in and AS Roma will face these 3 juggernauts in group J (courtesy of ball boy and former Roman legend Ashley Cole):
First things first: This clearly means hell for us, writers at Chiesa. I mean, sweet baby Jesus, look at those syllables! Why didn’t we get AZ, Braga or Ghent for example?
Let’s take a quick look at each of those clubs.
Wrong Borussia, boys. Dortmund is in the CL while we got the ‘baby Borussia’. Still, do not underestimate this team. They were a major force back in the 70s (long live ABBA) and seem on the rise since a few years, including two appearances in the Champions League.
Of course, Bayern and Dortmund are out of their league but they are on par with teams like Frankfurt, Leipzig, Leverkusen and Schalke. Last season Die Fohlen narrowly missed CL by three points.
Players to watch include the fabulous keeper Sommer (the Marco Borriello from the Bundesliga if you ask me), the two German internationals Ginter and Kramer and Brazilian striker Raffael. Not really household names but I reckon they can make Roma sweat both in Germany and in Rome. On top of that, German teams are always a pain in the ass and you’re never at ease until minute 90’ has passed.
However, this current Roma side is able to get at least three points, if not four (with a little luck) from these two confrontations.
Prediction: 3 of 6 points, one hard fought win at the Olimpico, one narrow defeat away.
Istanbul Basa… uh, let’s just call them IB, ok?
I know one guy who will be happy with this one: Cengiz. He played one season at IB, scoring 7 goals in 32 games, earning a transfer to Roma and a call-up for the Turkish national team.
IB is a relatively new club, founded in 1990. Just like Mönchengladbach, they’re on the rise in their own country, ending in second place twice and one third place since 2017. Not bad considering the fierce competition of Galatasaray, Fenerbahce and Besiktas, who all have a bigger fanbase and more international fame.
Curiously, chances are you know a lot more players of IB than Borussia. Do the names Gael Clichy, Eljero Elia, Robinho, Inler, Arda Turan and Demba Ba ring a bell? I bet they do.
That’s kinda their whole team sheet: Turkish players mixed with renowned albeit older players from bigger European leagues. Clichy, Robinho or Inler are in the Autumn of their career but I guess the Turkish league suits them fine. And hell, a European evening against the mighty AS Roma might bring out the best in them. So once again, watch out for this team, especially in the hot environment of Istanbul.
Prediction: 4 of 6 points. An easy win in Rome but a thriller in Turkey, ending in a draw.
Roman Wolves, meet Austrian Wolves. Damn, what an awesome name. Their wolf in the logo even looks like it should belong on Roma’s crest. The club is based in the region of Carinthia, along the Alps. It’s not so far from the Italian border so that’s a positive thing, this won’t be a long journey for the players.
Wolfsberger have played in the Austrian Bundesliga since 2012 and are newbies in Europe. This is their first full European campaign after they ended third in the league last season. They did play some EL qualifiers in 2015 but never reached the group phase.
I literally know one player from the club, Serb defender Rnic, because he once played in the Belgian top division at Anderlecht but he’s 34 now. The rest? Never heard of. Which is exactly why this should and must be a walk in the park for Roma. The difference is too big between the two teams.
And while I just wrote this, I remember the good old days of Slovan Bratislava. Yikes. Just, brace yourself if things go wrong in Carinthia. The last group match is Roma - Wolfsberger btw so if Roma still needs valuable points, this is the perfect match to do so.
Prediction: 6 of 6 points against the minnows, but this will surely come back and haunt me, right?
If my calculations are correct, that’s 13 points from a possible 18 and that should suffice for the next round and topping the group. I can see IB and Mönchengladbach battling it out until the very end for second place.
If I may speak for all of us, missing out on the CL hurts and while Roma won’t immediately face Real, Bayern or Liverpool, they are almost sure of European nights after 2019. And who knows, maybe those big teams will finally come to Rome after all. Remember the third placed teams in the CL groups will also enter the EL after New Year.
But before any of that happens, let’s just enjoy our Thursdays with Ünder’s ex, the magnificent Sommer and a lovely trip across the Alps.