Roma got off to a flying start on Sunday, scoring four goals en route to Paulo Fonseca’s first Serie A win as manager. Now, Roma will turn its attention to European play as it kicks off its Europa League campaign. On Thursday, the Giallorossi will host last season's Turkish Super Lig runner-up, İstanbul Başakşehir.
If the name rings a bell, it’s because İstanbul Başakşehir is the former club of Cengiz Ünder. Only founded in 1990, the Turkish club isn’t yet a household name. However, since returning from the second division in 2014, Başakşehir has finished no worse than fourth; qualifying for Europe in each of those five seasons.
For Roma, this is just its third time participating in the group stage of Europe’s lesser competition. Roma won it’s group in both 2009/10 and 2016/17 and should have similar aspirations this time around. The Giallorossi will be favored in a group that also includes Borussia Mönchengladbach and Wolfsberger. If they are to reach that expectation than a win to open the group against Başakşehir is a must.
Roma v. İstanbul Başakşehir: September 19th. 21:00 CET/15:00 EDT Stadio Olimpico, Roma.
Recent history suggests Roma should come away victorious considering its fine home form in European competitions and Başakşehir’s road struggles. The Giallorossi have won nine of their last eleven home matches in European competition with the only loss coming at the hands of Real Madrid. Additionally, Roma have won three and drawn once in four home matches against Turkish sides. Meanwhile, Başakşehir have won just once in ten away European fixtures, including six losses.
Current form also favors the Lupi. Roma have opened Serie A with a win and two draws. While Başakşehir have had a rough start to the season: after crashing out of the Champions League in the third qualifying round to Olimpiacos, Başakşehir have just four points in four Super Lig matches.
Roma shouldn’t take a win for granted though, as the Turkish side is a sort of who’s who of former European standouts. Başakşehir’s roster boasts the likes of Arda Turan, Robinho, Demba Ba, Gäel Clichy, Martin Škrtel, Gökan Inler, and Eljero Elia. Mostly players past their prime, but with the experience and quality to step up and create magic on the European stage. Hopefully seeing those names will keep Roma attentive.
For their part, the Giallorossi should see some turnover in their ranks, considering they play three matches in eight days. Fonseca will look to get some fresh legs into the XI while keeping the consistency that has Roma off to an unbeaten start in Serie A. Expect to see potential changes around the pitch as Fonseca will look to field a strong side on both fronts.
The Europa League may not have the luster of the Champions League, and it may be a bit harder to get excited about playing Başakşehir on a Thursday night than a European power on a Tuesday, but Roma shouldn’t take this competition lightly.
Roma need the Champions League next season for many reasons and the Europa League offers that golden carrot. With the winner of this competition getting a spot in next year’s premier competition, Roma would be foolish to throw this competition away, considering what could be stiff competition for a top four league finish.