There's a reason we sing Betty Bavagnoli's praises nearly every week in these spaces. What she's accomplished in four years, steering Roma from a concept on paper to a title-contending product on the pitch, has been remarkable. From recruiting and developing U-23 talents to signing some of Italy's finest players to rounding out the squad with experienced internationals, Bavagnoli has built one of the deepest and most talented clubs in Italy.
While they fell short of their title pursuit last year, their second-place finish wasn't without spoils. For the first time, the Giallorosse will compete in the Champions League, Europe's most prestigious club competition. By virtue of that second-place finish, and thanks to Italy's poor coefficient ranking, Roma will have to fight their way through the "League Path" to qualify for the group stage—An honor all the same, but Roma has a bit of work to do before they face the likes of Lyon, Chelsea or Barcelona.
The "League Path" is essentially a four-group playoff, with the four winners advancing to the second qualification round, where 24 teams will compete for the final 12 spots in the Champions League Group Stage. The full qualification path, including dates and times, can be found on the official UWCL site.
All of this is a very roundabout way of saying Roma has their work cut out for them, and all it begins this afternoon in Glasgow, where Roma squares off against Glasgow City, with the victor advancing to play the winner of today's other fixture, Paris FC vs. Servette FC, on August 21st. And the winner of that matchup will then advance to the second qualification round, contested over two legs on September 20-21 and 28-29.
The Opponents: Glasgow City FC
Founded in 1998, Glasgow City FC has completely dominated the Scottish Women's Premier League, winning the league title an astonishing 15 times, the league cup nine times, the Premier League Cup six times, and the old First Division title in their inaugural season. In other words, Glasgow is women's football in Scotland. While they've never faced an Italian opponent, Glasgow has appeared in the UWCL 14 times, advancing to the Quarterfinals in 2014-2015 and 2019-2020.
And with a perfect 2-0 start to the season, Glasgow's winning ways seem safe for another domestic season, giving them a slight head start over Roma, who won't start their domestic season until August 28th.
How Will Roma Approach Their First UWCL Match?
"It's a historic moment ... we want to enjoy it."— AS Roma Women (@ASRomaWomen) August 17, 2022
️ Coach Alessandro Spugna previews Thursday's @UWCL bow against Glasgow City!#ASRomaWomen #ASRoma pic.twitter.com/6EIGTkB9zS
While manager Alessandro Spugna didn't get into specifics during his pre-match interview, he was adamant that if Roma plays their game—passing, moving, and attacking with aplomb—they could withstand Glasgow's physicality, experience, and home-field advantage. Presumably, this means focusing on Roma's speed on the flanks, creativity through the middle, and, hopefully, their new weapon up top, Valentina Giacinti. Though with rain in the forecast, the aerial threats of Paloma Lázaro or even Sophie Haug could come into play.
Glasgow may have the European experience, but their total lack of familiarity with Roma could play to the Giallorosse's advantage. This may be Roma's first taste of the Champions League, but speed and skill play in any venue and in any competition. If Roma can catch Glasgow off guard, using the speed of Annamaria Serturini and Benedetta Glionna on the wings and the passing and creativity of Manuela Giugliano and Andressa through the middle, they may be able to score an upset over their hosts.
At the back, summer signing Carina Wenninger brings a wealth of Champions League experience from her days with Bayern Munich, while Elena Linari and Elisa Bartoli have each dipped their toes in European waters at various points in their careers.
Brushing past Glasgow won't be easy, and despite their lack of overall experience in this competition, Roma has enough know-how at the back and ample speed up front and out wide to advance to the second qualification round.
How to Watch
Today's match will be broadcast by Glasgow City on the Recast App.