I’ll keep it level with you, Chiesa: this is the most excited I’ve been about a Roma match in years. The Giallorossi are truly inches away from adding to their trophy cabinet for the first time since the Bush Administration, which is as nearly a wild a feeling as the feeling I felt when I realized that Roma “won” the Juan Iturbe sweepstakes (and therefore lost the Paulo Dybala sweepstakes) in 2014, nearly eight years ago. Needless to say, we’re breaking new ground in Albania not only for this ownership group, not only for this manager in Rome, but for practically every member of the side.
There are bound to be a bunch of nerves for every player as the ref starts the game; hell, I’ll be nervous and I’ll be 4,823 miles away. Those nerves are there for a reason, though; even if the Europa Conference League is a brand-new competition, this is a critical match for Roma’s long-term aspirations. Let’s hope that José Mourinho can pull off yet another cup win, as he is wont to do.
February 19, 2015: Roma 1, Feyenoord 1
Yup, it’s been a minute since Roma played Feyenoord. Long enough that the Giallorossi’s lone goal in the 1-1 draw was scored by Gervinho, the Predator clone who is now plying his wares at Trabzonspor. There’s very little to be gained from looking at these Europa League highlights in terms of predicting how the Giallorossi will perform on Wednesday, but hey, it’s cool to see all these guys from back in the day once again.
What To Watch For
Can Roma Break Its Trophy Drought?
This is the main story from Roma’s side, without a doubt, and to a certain extent, it’s the only story. Roma haven’t won a trophy since I started seriously following the club; Roma haven’t won a trophy since I was eleven. If the Giallorossi are able to win a trophy on Wednesday, even a brand-new one, it’ll be a signal of intent from everyone at the club, from the ball-boys to capitano Lorenzo Pellegrini to José Mourinho to Dan Friedkin. It’ll make the first year of the Mourinho/Friedkin experiment an unqualified success, and although the win isn’t needed to guarantee Roma Europa League football next season, it will undoubtedly give the side a spring in their step when the Europa League group stage starts up in the fall.
Not to name names, but it seems like there are a lot of Italian clubs that don’t care too much about European competitions of any type; the clubs that make the Champions League almost seem to prefer it when they drop like flies after the group stage, and the Europa League? Forget it. When these European drop-outs are able to beat up on Roma due to their greater depth and their singular focus on Serie A, you almost understand why they make that devil’s bargain. Yet I’ll never believe that that’s the right way to run a football club, particularly one with dreams of becoming something greater like the Giallorossi. If you want to build the right mentality, you fight tooth and nail to win every match you can, and if that means you’re more tired at certain points in the season, well, that’s sports, and you should get more depth to solve that problem. Totti knows gaining depth will be a major goal for Mourinho and Tiago Pinto this summer, regardless of how Wednesday’s match goes.
If Roma wins the Europa Conference League, they will be the first Italian club to win a European title since José Mourinho’s Inter won the Champions League in 2010. That drought should be embarrassing to fans of calcio everywhere, and even beyond that particular drought, Roma’s continual appearance in the semi-finals of European competitions during the Pallotta Era have often made them the lone Italian representative deep in any European competition. Maybe if the Giallorossi win the ECL, they’ll inspire other Italian clubs to actually care about European competitions instead of simply jockeying to say “well, we got third in Serie A this year, isn’t that neat.”
Or... the Giallorossi can win the ECL and go on to win the Europa League and more, leaving the rest of their Italian compatriots in the dust. You know what, I actually prefer that second idea.