With Roma having learnt their potential opponents for the Europa League second qualifying round, Giallorossi Yorkshire takes a look at what the competition will mean to the club next season.
Roma will play the winners of Debrecen v Kukesi (pending the result of Milan’s FFP investigation), with the first leg taking place at the end of July.
It will be Paulo Fonseca’s first chance to show what style of play he will be trying to implement at Roma, however little time he will have had to work with the squad beforehand. The new coach has his first chance to impress – but there are people who still believe Roma would be better off not being in the competition.
Perhaps those arduous Thursday nights will be a distraction, adding unnecessary miles to Roma’s travelling. Players could get injured in the extra matches, affecting how Roma perform in Serie A.
But that logic is flawed. Roma must take the Europa League seriously next season.
Look at the last time Roma had to play in the qualifying rounds for this competition, back in 2011-12. Luis Enrique’s first games as head coach saw the Giallorossi lose 1-0 in Slovakia to Slovan Bratislava, before only drawing 1-1 in the return leg. Roma’s European campaign was over before it had begun.
That early elimination, rather than helping Roma do better in the league, set the precedent for a disappointing season. They finished seventh in Serie A, not even high enough to reach the qualifying rounds of the next edition of the Europa League. There were costly losses to sides like Genoa (who came 17th), Cagliari (15th) and even Lecce, who were relegated. In addition, they lost both games to Lazio, something even more painful for the supporters. Enrique was dismissed, and it was back to square one. Roma cannot afford another season like that.
The reason wasn’t because Enrique was a bad coach. He went on to win back-to-back La Liga titles, the Champions League and three successive Copa Del Rey trophies at Barcelona. Maybe his failure at Roma was a question of momentum, which could have been different had the season not started on such a bad note.
Fonseca will be hoping to avoid a similar fate in his first season at Roma, and the Europa League is a competition he should prioritise. Of course he would’ve liked to have been in the Champions League instead, just like everyone associated with the club. But Roma must face their reality, and they can use it to their advantage.
After the shocking departure of Francesco Totti, and everything that has come in the aftermath, what better way to get the fans back on side than with a good European run? There is no reason why Roma, with a couple of smart additions, can’t venture far into the competition. Roma’s UEFA coefficient is higher than all but two of the teams that have qualified directly to the group stage. Even though that figure is mainly based on past performances, it shows the level Roma are at in comparison to their competition – and suggests that, should they make the group stages, they will have a favourable draw.
Entering at this early stage of the tournament, Roma will need to get through 20 matches if they are to reach the final. It won’t be easy, but they still have a better chance of winning the Europa League than Serie A. And with no trophies having arrived under the American ownership after nearly a decade, it’s essential that they find some way to quench the fans’ thirst for success.
Roma cannot afford to be complacent, but the Europa League can be used as a springboard for further glory.