Crashing back down to Earth

AS Roma does not have a standout star who is capable of turning a game around and this may pose a problem in their Champions League semifinal clash against Liverpool

After their earth-shattering comeback from three goals down to beat Barcelona in the Champions League, many expected AS Roma to continue their run of form and carry that momentum through the Derby della Capitale against Lazio.

However, it was clear that the Giallorossi were unable to maintain the level of intensity and effort that brought them the victory against Barça, as they laboured to a 0-0 draw against their city rivals.

For Roma fans, this would have been especially galling, because it’s one thing to show that sort of lack of urgency in any other match but it’s quite unacceptable to do so in a derby against one’s rival team.

Furthermore, the dropped points see Lazio remain third, four points ahead of Roma. With the Serie A season ending soon, time is running out for Roma to gain ground on Lazio, finish third, and qualify for next season’s Champions League.

This is also clear evidence as to why Roma have no chance to win the Champions League this season.

Of course, you could also point to the relative lack of star power in their squad, but let’s face it: if a team follows up on an incredible victory like that against Barça with a lackadaisical, uninspiring performance in a derby, that speaks volumes about their ability to maintain focus in pursuit of the biggest prize in club football.

It should be noted that Real Madrid, Bayern Munich, and Liverpool – the three other teams that have advanced to the last four of the Champions League – all followed up their respective Champions League victories by winning their own league matches.

It may be true that physical and mental fatigue played a role in Roma’s diminished performance. This may be seen in Roma defender Kostas Manolas, who scored the winning goal that knocked Barcelona out of the Champions League, being substituted near the end of the match due to injury, which may have been brought on by his efforts against the Catalan club.

But even so, derbies ought to be different. Derbies are often decided by which team just wants it more during the game, and Roma simply did not want it badly enough.

As was mentioned earlier, it is very possible that Roma could pair their season of overachievement in the Champions League with a league campaign that sees them missing out on next year’s edition.

This also brings me to my other point: Roma’s relative lack of star power, which is also a problem of their own doing.

In what will go down as a colossal blunder by the Roma front office, the Italian club sold Mo Salah to Liverpool in the off-season. Although not many eyebrows were raised by this transfer at the time, it could come back to haunt them in dramatic fashion, as Roma have been drawn to play Liverpool in the Champions League semifinals.

While Roma do have some solid players, such as Alisson, Radja Nainggolan, Kevin Strootman, Juan Jesus, Edin Džeko, and Stephan El Shaarawy, none of them are on the elite, game-changing level of the likes of Salah, Cristiano Ronaldo, or Robert Lewandowski.

Roma will go into their semifinal against Liverpool as the clear underdogs, and for good reason – not only did they sell an emerging superstar to the team they are about to face, but they have also shown that they lack the sort of consistency that will lead them to a European title.

In fact, I will come right out and say it: Roma have no chance of victory over the two legs in the semifinal.

This would also have been true if they had been drawn against Real or Bayern.

Among the four teams remaining in the competition, Roma have the least star power and are the least consistent. They also have relatively little big-match experience, unlike the battle-tested veterans in Madrid and Munich.

It is a shame that this season, in which Roma have surpassed many expectations, could end with them having absolutely nothing to show for their efforts – not even a place in next season’s Champions League.

Unfortunately, though, in spite of all they’ve done so far this season, Roma just do not seem to have what it takes to win it all.

Eu Weijun works at FMT.

* The views expressed are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of FMT.