Spare Europe: Roma needs seven points to guarantee the playoffs. The situation
After the defeat against Betis last week, first place in the group stage is realistically gone. For second place there would need to be sweat
First place is gone. Second place is not even a close goal. Third place is more or less within reach. After three gamedays of the Europa League, we don’t think we are biased in our Romanist hearts by saying that no one would have thought Roma would find themselves in this situation; a situation that is uncomfortable, to say the least. The substantial difference, especially in thinking about the future, was made by the defeat in Bulgaria in the debut match. But even the knockout at the Olimpico against Betis carries considerable weight. Tomorrow the Giallorossi will go to the home of Betis, a high-quality team as many had described on the eve of the match and was later confirmed in the first half of the first clash.
That's how it went, unfortunately, among other things by cashing in the defeat goal at the twilight of a second half in which Roma had leaded the game (as opposed to the first) and certainly would not have deserved the final mockery (that shot by Cristante that centered Bravo we believe will be difficult to fade from our nightmares). Mourinho, with great realism, in the aftermath of the match spoke of a second-place goal, the one that guarantees the play-off with the third-place teams coming down from the Champions League rounds (excluding any Italians). And one does not need to be a profound connoisseur of soccer to know that the risk of finding a big name (go look at the Champions League rounds standings) would be quite high. In the meantime, however, there is a second place to be won. First place, honestly, it seems as if we should say goodbye to. Between Betis having nine points, the home game against the Finns, and the other away in Bulgaria, it is hard to imagine them failing to score the three-four points they need to secure direct qualification to the round of 16 of Europe. Should they then not lose to Roma tomorrow, the road would be even further downhill. There would be the consequent risk that against the Bulgarians in the penultimate round, Betis could go into the game without having to ask for anything from a points standpoint. And this could also complicate the race for second place, which at this point is the realistic goal for the Giallorossi. The worst-case scenario in the next round would be Roma scoring no points in Sevilla and Ludogorets' winning at home against the Finns. This would mean, that in the next round against Finland, Roma would four points behind the Bulgarians. So even beating them (which will have to be done in any case) would mean hoping that Betis does in Bulgaria what it did at the Olimpico. Otherwise, goodbye Europa League (assuming the Bulgarians beat the Finns at home). And that, as you may know, would mean for Roma to go to a playoff, but to also relegate to the Conference League that would make a fine showing in Trigoria's trophy cabinet. That is why, tomorrow, in Seville against this Betis team that seemed to be a very good team, technical, tough, with quality players and obvious ideas on the field, it would be good to get a result. Winning would mean putting an important piece toward a second place in their pocket. Even if Ludogorets were to beat the Finns, then at the Olimpico it would be enough (so to speak) to beat them in order to guarantee the second position (assuming we then win in Finland). Getting a point in Seville would still be most useful because second place would be guaranteed by getting six points in the remaining two (but beating the Bulgarians by two goals difference).
We realize this is all theoretical talk. But the situation Roma has gotten itself into is as we mentioned, and it is through its own faults in Bulgaria and through a bit of bad luck last night at the Olimpico. In order to even hope to go to the Europa League play-offs, one has to, as things stand today, score no less than seven points. In all this talk, moreover, we have not taken the Finnish factor into consideration at all. If they ever go and win in Bulgaria, that would mean that at the end of October, in the fifth round of the group, they would be in a position to play for second place. Plus, there are a number of downsides for Roma. At the end of October, predictably, the weather will be rather harsh and this will only be an advantage for the Finns players, who have always been used to playing in sub-zero temperatures. No one could have imagined that we would be faced with this kind of reckoning today, which, unfortunately, also includes the risk of having to say goodbye to the Europa League. This would be a considerable disappointment, especially for Roma which has been accustomed to the League for quite some time now. Thus a (won) final in the Conference League, two semi-finals of the Champions League and Europa League, albeit also with several regrets legitimized other prospects.
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