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Roma Face Wolfsburg in Crucial Champions League Test

A win, or even a draw today, would put Roma on easy street to the knockout rounds. All they have to do is topple Wolfsburg, arguably the toughest team they’ve ever faced.

Juventus v AS Roma - Italian Women’s Super Cup Photo by Alessandro Sabattini/Getty Images

With 11 wins on the trot, including their first two Champions League group stage matches against Slavia Praha and St. Pölten, the women of Roma are riding high. Thanks to that run of form, the Giallorosse are perched atop the Serie A ladder with a four-point lead over second-place Juventus. Meanwhile, their perfect start in Europe has the Giallorosse slotted into second place in Group B, level on points with Wolfsburg but trailing in goal differential.

And as luck would have it, Roma welcomes Wolfsburg to the city's outskirts today, hosting the reigning German champions at the Stadio Comunale Domenico Francioni in Latina in a critical group stage fixture. With both sides undefeated, the winner of today's match will completely control Group B before the return legs begin in early December.

With seven league titles, nine domestic cup trophies, and two Champions League titles to their credit, plus three second-place finishes, Wolfsburg may very well be the most formidable team Roma has ever faced—a point not lost on the Giallorosse.

And no player is more familiar with the Wolfsburg threat than Austrian defender Carina Wenninger, who spent six seasons with Bayern Munich, battling Wolfsburg every step of the way.

"It will be a match with great intensity, a big, big fight. High-quality soccer. So it will be good for all the fans...I think for us, we need to play our style of soccer. The Roman style. To want the ball, to keep the ball, to play possession...Wolfsburg is a great team, I think we need to be focused to the end—to have a good fight against them and bring in all we have."

Roma manager Alessandro Spugna echoed those sentiments in his pre-match press conference:

"Tomorrow, we have a great opportunity that we created for ourselves, having the same points as Wolfsburg. We want to try to play the game to understand where we are. So we will play with carelessness, and serenity, fielding our weapons against one of the strongest teams in Europe, but we have to play as we know how. It wouldn't make sense to just defend ourselves against them, they would hurt us. We know that we won't play qualification against them but against the other two"

"We have a great opportunity tomorrow: to compete bravely, following our principles, knowing that we are up against a strong team, one of the strongest in Europe. If we are here, it is because we deserved it; we must have the courage to put what we will be able to do. If we were to lose, we would be in line with predictions. If we were to draw, we would be happy. If we were to win, we would have to worry about ourselves. Apart from everything, we will understand where we will be against such a battleship."

Despite the janky Google translation, the message is clear: This won't be easy (not by a longshot), but if Roma remains composed and takes the match to Wolfsburg, anything is possible.

But what exactly makes Wolfsburg so dangerous?

Glad you asked; let's take a quick look at what makes the German giants so great.

Keep an Eye On

Ewa Pajor

VfL Wolfsburg v SKN St.Pölten Frauen: Group B - UEFA Women’s Champions League Photo by Cathrin Mueller/Getty Images

With 23 goals forced and only five conceded, Wolfsburg has the most goals scored, fewest conceded, the best goal differential, and most points in the Frauen Bundesliga through seven matches. In a word, Wolfsburg has been unstoppable, and much of that success is thanks to the 25-year-old Polish attacker.

After a few years on the periphery, Pajor is back in a major way, scoring a league-leading seven goals in only 445 minutes of action—and not only that, Pajor has dished out a club-leading three assists. And those 10 goal-scoring actions make her the most dangerous player in Germany, and with three goals in two Champions League appearances, Pajor has been a pest on the European stage, too.

Given her propensity to score and create, Roma's entire backline (and even the midfield) will be wise to keep an eye on Pajor—their chances of advancing may depend on it.

The Wolfsburg Backline

VfL Wolfsburg Portraits - UEFA Women’s Champions League 2022/23 Photo by Vera Loitzsch - UEFA/UEFA via Getty Images

With only five goals conceded, Wolfsburg has been the stingiest club in Germany through seven matches, a record that has carried over to the Champions League. After trouncing Slavia Praha and St. Pölten themselves, Wolfsburg's group stage record is unblemished: two wins, zero losses, zero goals conceded.

Led by center-backs Kathrin Hendrich and Dominque Janssen and full-backs Felicitas Rauch and Lynn Wilms, Die Wölfinnen (The She-Wolves. How appropriate) have dominated opposing attacks, limiting opponents to one goal or less in all but two matches this season (all comps).

All of which puts even more pressure on...

Roma's Forwards

SKN St.Pölten Frauen v AS Roma: Group B - UEFA Women’s Champions League Photo by Luciano Rossi/AS Roma via Getty Images

With a bevy of options at his disposal, Spugna has mixed and matched his frontline over the past few months, alternatively letting Valentina Giacinti lead the line herself while pairing her with Paloma Lázaro and Sophie Roman Haug, who is settling into life in Italy nicely, scoring four goals in only 320 league minutes. But this trio has never faced a defense as daunting as Wolfsburg's, putting added pressure on every touch.

However, there is good news: the return of Andressa Alves. While she was doubtful heading into the match, Roma's Brazilian playmaker should be good to go this afternoon, giving the Giallorosse an added weapon. Slotting Andressa behind the Giacinti-Haug duo and ahead of Manuela Giugliano should give Spugna's attack enough mustard to cut through the Wolfsburg backline, and with the speed of Emilie Haavi and Benedetta Glionna on the wings, Roma may have a chance to do the impossible: score against this defense.

Despite the obstacles we discussed, Roma has never backed down from a challenge. Considering how well the club is playing at the moment and the talent at his disposal, Spugna could orchestrate another European upset today.

Kickoff is at 3 PM. Don't miss it!