If you want to be the best, you have to beat the best. That well-worn adage is usually best reserved for second-rate sports movies, but for Roma, a club that only came into existence five years ago, simply reaching the Champions League was a mark of the tremendous progress this club has made over the past half decade.
And now they'll have a chance to test their mettle against one of the true heavyweights of women's football. Earlier today, Roma was drawn against Barcelona, the seven-time Primera Division champions and winners of the 2020-2021 Champions League. Boasting talents like Lucy Bronze, Claudia Pina, Irene Paredes, Marta Torrejón, and Mapi León, Barcelona is absolutely loaded. Fortunately (well, unfortunately, really), Roma will be spared the sight of 2022 Ballon d'Or winner Alexia Putellas, who suffered a season-ending ACL tear last summer while prepping for Euro 2022 with the Spanish National team.
Roma will have a bit of insider information on their Spanish foes thanks to Andress Alves and the newly-signed Vicky Losada, both of whom won their fair share of matches with the Blaugrana.
On his side's tough draw, manager Alessandro Spugna didn't mince words:
"We'll meet the best side in the world at the moment. They have no weaknesses and possess great quality in all areas."
"They scored 29 goals in the group stage, more than any other team; they've already won the UEFA Women's Champions League and got to the final last year, so they know how to play in this competition. They'll be very tough opponents to come up against but we must be calm and keep working on the qualities that have seen us through to this point, staying grounded."
Head of Women's Football and the brains behind the entire operation since day one, Betty Bavagnoli, took a slightly different tone. Win, lose, or draw, simply reaching this phase of the competition will do wonders for Roam's reputation on the European stage, something Bavagnoli spoke to earlier today:
"We're very excited to have made it this far in our UEFA Women's Champions League debut season. One of the goals we set as a club was to establish a strong international identity for our women's team and we've laid good foundations for that this season, exceeding many of our expectations. With each game, the players and staff were able to gain more maturity on this journey. I really hope that this can be an inspiration for young girls and also for Italian women's football more generally."
The first leg between Roma and Barcelona will take place on March 21st at the Stadio Olimpico in Rome, with the return leg set for the 29th at the Camp Nou in Barcelona. This will be the first time the Giallorosse have played at the Olimpico. And who knows, perhaps a raucous crowd of tens of thousands of Romans could propel the Giallorosse to victory.
If they can do the unthinkable, Roma would face the winner of the Lyon-Chelsea tie.