For the first time in their brief three-year shared history, the men and women of AS Roma find themselves in similar boats. Both the Giallorossi and Giallorosse are likely to miss out on league spoils but each squad still has a chance to make history in other competitions: the women in the Coppa Italia and the men in the Europa League. Earlier today the Giallorosse managed a thrilling come-from-behind victory over Fiorentina, proving they can still win while looking ahead to what is inarguably the more important fixture: next weekend's semifinal clash against Juventus.
Now, we turn our attention to the men of Rome and ask if they can manage the same feat: handling their business against lowly Torino while also preserving their energies for two critical upcoming matches: a home tilt against Atalanta and their trip to Manchester to face United at the end of the month.
Torino vs. Roma: April 18th. 18:00 CET/12:00 EDT. Stadio Olimpico, Torino.
For his part, Roma manager Paulo Fonseca had no trouble focusing on the opponent in front of him:
I don’t ever look too far ahead – I just think about the next game. I think the Ajax match is already in the past and now we have to focus on the league. We have to have the hunger to beat Torino. We need to play well if we want to win against a side that is in good form.
The important thing is we win our matches. As I’ve said, I only think about the next game. I’m not thinking about anything other than trying to beat Torino tomorrow.
While that's all well and good, the typical narrative in situations like these—and indeed one we've championed ourselves—sees a manager use what are essentially “meaningless” league fixtures as a tune-up for the impending cup and/or European competitions, something Fonseca dismissed out of hand:
...they are different competitions. Now I’m just thinking about the league and the best decisions in order to win tomorrow. I’m focused on Torino. It’s important that we understand that the game against Ajax is over now. We have to get back to the league, we still have targets to pursue in Serie A
You really have to hand it to Fonseca for remaining level-headed throughout all of this. For all intents and purposes, his future in the capital is riding on Champions League qualification via winning the Europa League, which would, in turn, trigger a third-year on his deal.
Those are no small potatoes, and while Roma is still technically alive in Italy's Champions League race, could you really blame Fonseca if he doted on his best players ahead of every league match, playing the kids and the misfits in order to rest guys like Henrikh Mkhitaryan, Leonardo Spinazzola and Rick Karsdorp, to name a few?
No matter how his Roma story ends, Fonseca has been short-shrifted throughout his entire tenure with Roma. From the change in ownership midway through his first season to the pandemic to the litany of injuries, serious or otherwise, Fonseca has never had a “normal” day in Roma. In that light, the impossible circumstances he's currently facing are perfectly in tune with his entire time in the Eternal City.
Roma should be favored in this match, but you can't fault Fonseca for looking ahead to the 29th, despite what he might say—his job is on the line after all.