I only watched Inter-Roma on replay, but as I saw the notifications for Inter goals light up my phone while I was enjoying a weekend away in rural New York, I wasn’t incredibly surprised. The Giallorossi are a year or two behind Inter’s project at the moment, and whereas the Nerazzurri are fighting for the Scudetto, Roma is fighting just to qualify for the Europa League through league play. I’m hopeful that next year, Roma’s record against clubs like Inter, Juventus, and Milan will be better; even the matches against Juventus this season were winnable if not for mental lapses, and Roma’s play against Lazio, Atalanta, and Napoli has certainly been impressive. Take your lumps, move forward, onwards and upwards, as they say.
Onwards and upwards to the Conference League Semifinals, at the very least, where the Giallorossi are now flying to England to play Leicester City, who of course became the world’s favorite club when they won the Premier League on a million to one odds back in 2016. Leicester’s fortunes have sagged a bit since that incredible season; although they added a FA Cup trophy to their cabinet in 2021, The Foxes are comfortably mid-table in the Premier League this season, leaving the Europa Conference League as their only chance at lifting silverware in 2022.
Not to diminish Feyenoord or Marseille, who are the other two remaining clubs in the ECL, but this semifinal feels awfully close to the actual final of the tournament this time around. I’m not a betting man, but I’d put down good money that the winner of this semifinal will end up winning the whole shebang. That puts a lot of pressure on Roma to get a positive result away; we know that this side has the ability to come back from goals down, but Leicester City isn’t Bodø/Glimt.
We’ve never played them before! That’s cool and unique. In lieu of prior match highlights, here’s the footage of Ranieri and Co. lifting the Premier League trophy.
Ah, the spring of 2016. A simpler time, truly.
What To Watch For
Will Roma’s Attack Thrive Against English Tactics?
All reports suggest that the Giallorossi will once again turn to Tammy Abraham, Lorenzo Pellegrini, and Nicolò Zaniolo as their front three from the first minute at King Power Stadium. That’s a trio that’s found quite a bit of success in the Europa Conference League this season, whether that’s Zaniolo’s moment of brilliance against Bodø/Glimt or Abraham and Pellegrini’s sustained quality throughout the competition. As mentioned previously, though, Leicester is a different beast compared to the other clubs Roma has played in this competition to date.
This is a defense that faces some of the most potent attackers in the world on a week in, week out basis, and even though that defense has only resulted in a mid-table placement so far, that doesn’t mean they’ll be a pushover. In addition, Leicester’s defense has been reinforced by the return of Wesley Fofana, a critical cog and someone who could give even Tammy Abraham headaches.
To be truly worthy of winning silverware, you have to show your ability to win and score against the best a particular competition has to offer. Leicester fans seem worried by the prospect of defending Roma on set pieces, and we all know that Roma has found a lot of success from set-pieces this season. A convincing win in this first leg, perhaps buoyed by set-piece goals from Roma’s youthful front three, would certainly show that the Giallorossi deserve to win their first trophy since the 2000s.
Which Side Will Fight Harder For This?
Both Roma and Leicester will be coming into this match incredibly hungry for glory. For Roma, a win in the ECL will guarantee a spot in the Europa League group stage for next season and end a fourteen-year trophy drought; for The Foxes, an ECL win would arguably do more, including blunting criticism of Brendan Rodgers’s side for only achieving a mid-table finish in the Premier League this season. Simply put, both sides need the win, both sides could use the glory, and both sides would love to have that golden ticket for Europa League play next season.
Since this competition is both sides’ only chance at a trophy this season, it will be fascinating to see who exhibits that hunger most explicitly on the pitch. José Mourinho has done an excellent job this year instilling a tough and aggressive mentality in his squad; just take a look at Roma’s second leg victory against Bodø/Glimt if you want to see a team who never lets up and keeps their knee on their opponent’s neck until the final whistle. If they’re able to keep that mentality against a far tougher opponent, I’ll really start to believe in this side’s ability to win ECL this year, as well as their ability to win more coveted trophies during the rest of Mourinho’s reign.