Best of the Rest Ian Gregory-Graff Weekly Game Segments

Roma Who?

Via talkSPORT

As you probably know by now Liverpool has drawn Roma in the semi-finals of the Champions League. If this past week’s Champions League drama wasn’t enough for you to get introduced to Roma, then you’ve come to the right place.

Serie A

Via Fox Sports

In their domestic league, Serie A of Italy, Roma currently sit in 4th position (Champions League 18/19 spots) and out of 32 matches so far they have amassed 61pts with a record of 18 wins 7 draws and 7 losses. Roma has done well at home and away, though surprisingly slightly better away, only 1 loss, 6 draws and matching their home win total of 9. Roma appears to not be a team of consistency as they have no real streaks of any sort recently in the league or overall results. They are fairly average in terms of goals differential, +35, with 50 goals for & 26 goals against. This should not totally deceive you as the team has kept 14 clean sheets in the league with their acclaimed backstop Alisson. Alisson has amassed his 14 clean sheets with an impressive 98 saves, though the 26 goals allowed show that he is beatable. Most of Roma’s 50 goals have been scored by their main contributor, Dzeko. Dzeko has collected 14 goals and 3 assists in his 31 games played (28 starts) which in terms of top European leagues it is a slightly above average goal total. The only other main contributor is Nainggolan, he holds the most assists for the side with 7, he is quite a formidable midfielder. Other bit part rolls have been played by El Shaarawy & Perotti, both wingers have added 11 goals and 8 assists total between them. The major conclusion here is that Roma while at times an elite performing side is also very susceptible.

Champions League

Via AP Photo/Gregorio Borgia

Performances for Roma in the various rounds of the competition have yielded very similar results to their league campaign. Their record consists of 5 wins 2 draws and 3 losses in the competition so far.

In the Group Stage:

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Roma had one of the tougher groups to try and battle through, matched up with Atletico, Chelsea, and Qarabag. Roma really proved their grit in gutting out results that they desperately needed to. Multiple wins against Qarabag, a win and draw against Chelsea, and a draw as well as their only loss to Atletico.  Primarily picking up points at home, their ability to grab a win in Azerbaijan (a surprisingly tough place to play), as well a gritty draw in London enabled Roma to advance top of the group.

Round of 16:

Via Fox Sports

In the Round of 16, the draw saw Roma matched up with a tough opponent, Shakhtar Donetsk. Many pundits picked this tie as the one most likely to produce an upset with the in-form, mercurial, disciplined attacking Shakhtar having the highest possibility of taking the fight to Roma. The 1st leg was as even an affair as you could imagine minus the final score, basically dead-locked in all areas of statistics: possession, shots, saves, passes, you name it, it was essentially split 50-50. Roma initially took the lead, with the crucial away goal through Under, but a counter-attacking goal via Ferreyra and wonderfully struck Fred free-kick saw Shakhtar ahead. In the 2nd leg, Roma took a tactical approach ceding possession to Shakhtar and looking to hit on the counter. This approach saw the 2 definitive moments of the match unfurl, Dzeko latched onto a few passes out of the back to steer the ball home and see Roma into the lead on away goals, and the final nail in the coffin was Dzeko being taken down by the last man on breakaway leading to Shakhtar playing out the match with 10 men. At the final whistle, Roma escaped with an away goals victory through their concerted effort at home.

Quarter-Finals:

Via Fox Sports

The Quarter-Final draw matched up Roma with what many predicted would be their demise in the form of Barcelona. The 1st leg wasn’t exactly what you would have expected based on the scoreline. Roma was organized, tough, and ready for the Camp Nou atmosphere; however, a few unlucky bounces saw Roma hand Barca 3 of their 4 goals. Statistically, Barca only held a slight advantage in the areas that mattered, except for Dzeko’s vital away goal. The now famous 2nd leg was a masterpiece by Roma and a lackluster performance by Barca. Roma again needed to set up perfectly, defend perfectly, and counter perfectly to advance in the competition. Barca dominated possession and passing statistics, but couldn’t produce more than 2 shots on target. Roma methodically picked their chances, scoring their 3 goals on 7 shots throughout the match, with the tie-winning goal finding the net in the final 10 min. It was a match with a legacy that will fully depend on the how their Champions League campaign is completed.

Semi-Finals:

Via Fox Sports

Liverpool will meet Roma at Anfield in the first leg and faces the same situation as Roma’s 2 previous opponents with the 2nd leg away. What you should expect from Roma, for the most part, is the same stalwarts as in their league campaign contributing in the tie. Alisson in net has allowed 12 goals but leads keepers in the Champions League with 36 saves and is in 2nd (behind Karius) with 5 clean sheets. Up front, Dzeko will be the main threat scoring 6 goals and assisting 3 over the course of Roma’s 10 matches. As far as the rest of the Roma crew is concerned the squad has been bolstered by the breadth of contributions from many players in different roles. El Shaarawy & Perotti are the other main attacking threats combining for 4 goals and 2 assists, then defenders Manolas & Under have added 3 goals and 1 assist together. However, the main aspect of Roma’s squad that Liverpool will need to contend with lies in the midfield with De Rossi, Nianggolan, and Strootman. Those 3, while not necessarily having produced in terms of trackable statistics, they are the workhorses of the Roma machine. Liverpool will need to find a way to navigate their contributions in both the offensive and defensive aspects over the 2 legs, otherwise, Liverpool’s attack may sputter and the defense crumbles under the pressure.

Many of the ‘Experts’ are still picking Liverpool to advance, and this is the draw many would have hoped for in the Liverpool camp. The thought process behind this being it will be much easier to take on either Real or Bayern in a one-off match at a neutral location for the final. With all that being said, it will be important for Liverpool not to overlook or approach Roma with one eye on their next opponent or there may not be one.

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