With their ticket to the Europa League Round of 32 already booked, on the surface it would seem that Roma don't have an awful lot at stake in tomorrow's fixture against BSC Young Boys. While it's true that the Giallorossi need only a draw to win Group A, after such a dismal showing against Napoli on Sunday, Paulo Fonseca chose to focus on...well, focus. In his pre-match press conference, Fonseca stressed that his club mustn't dwell on the Napoli defeat but should instead continue to “do the usual work, play normally, without focusing on the Napoli game.”
That's easier said than done of course, but losing so abruptly and so thoroughly after running off a stretch of eight wins in ten matches could potentially stunt all the growth Roma has exhibited under Fonseca this season, shattering their confidence in the process. So, while there isn't really much to lose or gain in the immediate sense tomorrow against Young Boys, a resounding victory will go a long way towards restoring the club's self-belief.
Roma vs. Young Boys: December 3rd. 21:00 CET/3:00 EST. Stadio Olimpico, Roma.
But, before we look ahead to tomorrow, let's take a quick trip back to October when Roma narrowly escaped Bern with three points.
October 22nd: BSC Young Boys 1, Roma 2
You remember this match: the sparsely crowded stadium, Roma's lackluster B-Team, the rain, the synthetic pitch. For most of this damp Swiss evening, this match was a nightmare for Roma, as their second unit—who, by that point, had barely played competitive minutes together—struggling to find a creative spark on the slick plastic grass. And with a critical match looming against AC Milan three days later, Paulo Fonseca was loathe to play his starters more than necessary.
But, as the old saying goes, necessity is the mother of invention. And with the B-Team struggling in Bern, Fonseca had no choice but to lean on his heavy hitters. The second half substitutions of Edin Dzeko, Henrikh Mkhitaryan, Lorenzo Pellegrini and Leonardo Spinazzola were enough to tilt the tables in Roma's favor.
It wasn't a dream start to Roma's Europa League campaign, but they bagged all three points and set themselves up for easy passage to the Round of 32.
Firsts & Seconds
With a three-point lead over the Young Boys, a better goal differential, and, of course, a better head-to-head record (thus far), Roma can lockdown the top spot in Group A with a match to play, making their remaining fixture against CSKA Sofia purely academic. In the grand scheme of things, winning the group won't change much, but it does come with a €1 million prize, and, of course, a better seed in the Round of 32 and the benefit of playing the second leg at home. Any little advantage Roma can earn is ultimately worth the effort, but who exactly will be giving that effort tomorrow?
It would be easy to suggest that Fonseca just roll out his B-Team, a bag of balls, and some orange slices and call it a day, but as we saw back in October, Roma's second unit struggled to breakdown BSC Young Boys, playing stagnant and frustrating football until they were bailed out by the starters. Granted, they'll have the benefit of playing at home on natural grass, but we can't simply assume Young Boys will roll over at the sight of Gonzalo Villar, Borja Mayoral and Federico Fazio.
However, much like the first fixture, Roma have a critical Serie A match looming on the weekend—a six-pointer against third place Sassuolo, who hold a one-point advantage over Roma after nine weeks of play—so we can't simply assume players like Spinazzola, Pedro or Mkhitaryan will receive a free pass tomorrow.
Since Roma have already advanced to the Round of 32, a loss against Young Boys tomorrow won't necessarily be damning, but it will make their next Europa League date against CSKA Sofia more important than in needs to be.
So, if you're Paulo Fonseca, what do you do? Play it safe and hope that your young boys can handle Young Boys or risk playing your starters with the far more critical match against Sassuolo just three days down the road?
What should Paulo Fonseca do against Young Boys?
This poll is closed
Play his young boys
Play his starters, win it early and rest them
Half & Half
Suit up himself, play midfield and let his bangs do the talking