With a midweek match at Sassuolo looming in just a couple of days, Serie A moves quickly. While Sunday's derby defeat at the hands of Lazio still stings, there's no time to dwell on the loss. However, before Roma can even turn its attention to Wednesday's match against Sassuolo, the Giallorossi's European future came into focus earlier today in Nyon, Switzerland.
After the Europa League Round of 32 draw, José Mourinho learned just how difficult Roma's path to a second consecutive European title has become. After eeking out a cardiac arrest-inducing victory over Ludogorets at the Olimpico on Thursday, the Giallorossi secured qualification to the EL knockout rounds.
That status as runner-up resigned Roma to the fate of playing in the Round of 32 against one of the third-place teams from a Champions League group rather than direct progression to the Round of 16. The list of potential opponents had some of Europe's most storied clubs on the list, including Barcelona, Ajax, and Sporting Lisbon. That's not to mention Sevilla, who has won this competition multiple times.
In the end, Roma won't face any of those teams, drawing Red Bull Salzburg in the Round of 32 instead. In the grand scheme of things, it's probably one of the most favorable draws Mourinho's side could've gotten.
Salzburg finished third in a group that included Chelsea, AC Milan, and Dinamo Zagreb with six points. The Austrian Champs were alive until the last matchday when they fell to Milan 4-0 in the decisive head-to-head that secured advancement for the Italian Champions.
The fact that Salzburg isn't Barca or Ajax doesn't mean that this will be an easy tie for Roma. Salzburg enters with plenty of European experience after making it to the Champions League Round of 16 before falling to Bayern Munich last season. Salzburg is also the defending Austrian Bundesliga and Austrian Cup champions. And it tops the current Bundesliga standings as well.
Roma travels to Austria on February 16th before returning to Roma for the second leg on February 23rd. There's still plenty of football to be played between now and then, but these matches will be ones that Romanisti circle on the calendar.
Be sure to check back with us for more Salzburg coverage as the fixtures approach.