Roma play the role of host on Tuesday evening as they welcome Real Madrid to the Italian capital. What looked like a clash between two heavyweights earlier in the season is now a unappealing affair between two sides that have struggled mightily to find their feet this season.
Real Madrid, the reigning European champions, have looked lost without Zinedine Zidane at the helm and toothless in attack without Cristiano Ronaldo. Roma, meanwhile, underwent another summer of wholesale roster changes and have the look of a team that would struggle to finish mid-table — much less a team capable of repeating their incredible Champions Lesgue success from last season.
Had this clash been six months ago, it’d be a can’t-miss, mouth-watering affair. And now? It’s a match between two rudderless ships that are limping towards the knockout stages of the Champions League.
For Roma, this match puts them in a no-win situation, regardless of the result. The Giallorossi’s problems all season have been maintaining focus between the league and Champions League. Their impressive performances against CSKA Moscow and Viktoria Plzen in Europe have been entirely negated thanks to their embarrassing displays against the likes of Atalanta, Chievo, Bologna, SPAL, and Udinese in Serie A — all of whom managed to nab points from Eusebio Di Francesco‘s men.
A win against Real Madrid further confirms the criticism they’ve received all season from both fans and the media: their motivation turns way up for the Champions League and that they lack focus and determination in Serie A. Meanwhile, a loss against the Spanish side only makes their current crisis spin even further and increases supporters‘ second-guessing of the players, sporting director Ramon Monchi and manager Eusebio Di Francesco.
The task will be even tougher for Roma on Tuesday evening when they will be forced to play without Daniele De Rossi, Edin Dzeko, Javier Pastore, Diego Perotti and Lorenzo Pellegrini. The biggest thing missing for Roma during this troubling period has been a lack of character and personality — something that the long-list of injured players are able to provide.
Tomorrow’s clash for the Italians will be weighed heavily with this weekend’s crucial showdown in Rome against Inter. Should things go well in both occasions, the chatter of Roma having overcome their difficult moment will undoubtedly increase. Should Roma, though, drop points in either affair, it’s certainly possible that Eusebio Di Francesco will be sacked — turning the situation from a crisis into a full-blown disaster.
Hyperbole is common in football, but it’s entirely appropriate to call the next 5 days and two matches “make or break” for Roma.
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