After winning the Europa Conference League in 2021-22, Roma have their eyes on the prize one level up in 2022-23: the Europa League.
As fate would have it, the draw for the quarter-finals has put Roma up against Feyenoord in a repeat of last season’s Conference League final. It promises to be an intriguing and competitive tie.
Should Roma overcome Feyenoord again, a semi-final against the winners of the tie between Bayer Leverkusen and Union Saint-Gilloise will await. Hence, they are already able to map out a relatively inviting route to the final.
Some supporters might even already be starting to dream of seeing their side in a second consecutive European final, which would be a remarkable achievement if it was to materialise. But can Roma get there in reality?
Certainly, the message that Jose Mourinho will be sharing with his squad is not to underestimate any opponent. The thought resides on this season’s Coppa Italia campaign, in which Roma similarly had an attractive potential route to the final, only to embarrassingly be eliminated by Cremonese.
In April, it will be up to Mourinho’s men to avoid a similar fate and progress instead in Europe.
Feyenoord are an interesting opponent, for several reasons. On one hand, some of their staff – led by head coach Arne Slot – seem to have developed a belief over time that it should have been their name on the Conference League trophy, not Roma’s, back in May 2022.
Slot has repeatedly insisted that his side played better than Mourinho’s in the final, and now they will have a point to prove. For Roma, on the other hand, the motivation may well be to put them back in their place.
Feyenoord are in form this season, though, currently leading the Eredivisie table after 25 matches. At the time of writing, they have only lost once domestically all season.
Roma should be confident, though, that they can assert their superiority over the Rotterdam side once more. Overcoming Real Sociedad in the past round was an indication of how competitive the Giallorossi can be against established European sides.
It will be all to play for, though, in the quarter-finals. Should Roma progress, only one hurdle will remain before the final.
Either Bayer Leverkusen or Union SG would be challenging opponents in their own right, too. The latter may possess some kind of unknown quantity, which has already helped them this far in their first ever campaign in UEFA competition. The former, on the other hand, have performed below par in the Bundesliga this season, but have a certain Patrik Schick among the ranks who may have a point to prove if he gets to come up against the side that once made him their record signing, only to see him struggle to meet expectations.
At this point, though, whoever Roma face, having Mourinho in the dugout could be a pivotal factor. As La Magica learned last year, he comes into his own on big European nights. With the Special One at the helm, Roma should have every confidence of crossing the line.
The final itself would be another level of challenge, since it would either be against Mourinho’s former side Manchester United, fellow Serie A outfit Juventus, public enemy number one Monchi’s Sevilla, or a Sporting CP side led by Jose’s compatriot, Ruben Amorim. But that would be a matter for another day.
Right now, Roma at least know the steps they can take to get there.
The most immediate challenge is to see off Feyenoord. The first leg, away from home, will take place in between Serie A fixtures against Torino and Udinese. Then, the home leg would follow the Udinese match and slot in before a clash with Atalanta.
As for the provisional semi-finals, the calendar would throw up a league game against Inter, the first leg, a league game against Bologna, the second leg, and then a league game against Salernitana. The final, ultimately, would fall on 31st May, in between Roma’s last two league games of the season, against Fiorentina and Spezia.
Roma have recently struggled switching their focus from one competition to another, as seen by the slip up against Sassuolo in between the two legs of the Real Sociedad fixture. As the business end of the season approaches, they will have to work out how to balance their priorities. How their pursuit of a top-four finish in Serie A progresses may have an impact on their overall fortunes.
But after restoring the joy of winning silverware last season, it is now in the backs of Roman minds that they have the chance to follow it up with another honour.
Ultimately, it will still be tough to reach the Europa League final – at which point anything could happen – but the draw has given some reason for belief. Can Roma fans afford to dream about reaching the final? Yes, why not; it doesn’t cost.
But should it be an expectation? Not just yet. And that goes even for simply reaching the semi-finals. Some hard work is ahead for this team, however ambitious they are.
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