Roma travels to Seville just a week after giving up a late winner to Real Betis at the Olimpico. The loss put Roma’s Europa League campaign in peril as the Giallorossi have now dropped two of their opening three group-stage matches. Roma’s chances of advancing aren’t finished with just three points through three games, but they’re certainly in more significant danger than many would’ve expected. And another loss against the Spanish side, coupled with a Ludogorets win against HJK, would put Roma’s prospects of advancing to the knockout rounds in grave danger.
The Giallorossi travel to Seville knowing they need a result—preferably a win—otherwise, they may find themselves again toiling in the Conference League. And as great as it was to lift that trophy, I don’t think anyone wants a shot at a repeat of that title over fighting it out in the Europa League knockout rounds. So, with last week’s loss to Los Verdiblancos still stinging, let’s look at what Roma will need to do to get its European campaign back on track.
What To Watch For
Where Will the Goals Come From?
Roma’s struggles in front of goal have been well-documented this season. The Giallorossi continues to be one of Serie A’s most dangerous attacks according to advanced metrics like xG. However, despite creating an xG of 24.3 (fbref) in all competitions, Roma’s attack has put the ball in the back just 17 times. There’s no doubt about it; the Giallorossi are underperforming.
To make matters worse, Roma lost its most effective attacker, Paulo Dybala, for the foreseeable future on Sunday against Lecce. Dybala has scored 7 of the 17 goals—often through individual brilliance. The Giallorossi won’t have that luxury to fall back on against Betis this time around. So, someone, anyone not named Dybala, will have to step it up.
Besides losing Dybala, Roma will also be without Nicolo Zaniolo through suspension. That likely means that we’ll see the striker tandem of Tammy Abraham and Andrea Belotti from the start. They’re two guys who know how to put the ball in the back of the net, but they’ve combined for just three goals so far. Whether it’s them, Lorenzo Pellegrini, or perhaps Stephan El Shaarawy or Eldor Shomorudov off the bench, the Giallorossi will need goals from another source if they expect to get a result and push their European road scoring streak to 23 matches.
The Spanish Struggles
Roma has struggled in its trips to the Iberian peninsula in recent seasons. In fact, the Giallorossi haven’t had any success in their last three road matches against Spanish opposition. Those three matches were against Atletico Madrid, Real Madrid, and Barcelona. Betis may not be on the same level as those three in terms of club status, but Manuel Pellegrini’s side already showed it’s more than up to the task.
Besides Roma’s struggles in Spain, Betis also boasts an impressive home record in European play. In 10 Europa League group stage matches, Betis has six wins and four draws. Meanwhile, the Verdiblancos are unbeaten in three home matches against Italian sides. History says that Betis should be favored in this one for more than last week’s result. Roma will have to be sharp from the opening whistle to avoid losing its third straight road match in this competition since the 1993 UEFA Cup.
With Dybala injured and Zaniolo suspended, Pellegrini will move into the attacking midfield role—likely behind Abraham and Belotti. Meanwhile, the injuries at right wing-back mean that Nicola Zalewski will fill in there with Leo Spinazzola on the left. The three-man backline and keeper have no doubts. While it’s possible that Mady Camara finally gets a start in the midfield, it looks as if Mourinho will again favor Matic and Cristante.
ROMA (3-4-1-2): Rui Patricio; Mancini, Smalling, Ibanez; Zalewski, Cristante, Matic, Spinazzola; Pellegrini, Abraham, Belotti.