For the first time in 29 years, Real Madrid are halfway to doing what they have sought to do since 1987 – to knock an Italian side out of European competition. Thanks to a 2-0 win over Roma at the Stadio Olimpico on Wednesday evening courtesy of goals from Cristiano Ronaldo and the player who replaced him, Jese, the 10-time Champions League winners will head back to their home ground with a comfortable lead in hand.
Luciano Spalletti’s men gave it their all, but were left to rue their several missed chances at the end of this match. In all honesty, losing 2-0 to Real Madrid – a team that were expected to give them the same kind of hiding they received at the hands of Bayern Munich last season and Barcelona this season – is not anything to be entirely ashamed of. As disappointing as it will obviously be to the team and their fans, the Giallorossi were the worst performing side out of the 16 at this stage, with a dismal six points out of 18 and having conceded a whopping 16 goals. And although things appeared to have improved under Spalletti, their group stage performance did not leave supporters feeling confident about their chances against the La Liga giants.
Well, they will surely face a mountain to climb as they travel to Madrid. This stat will be quite foreboding for Lupi supporters: In 97 Champions League ties to date, no team, yes, absolutely no team have been able to come back after suffering a 2-0 home loss in the first leg. Barring a catastrophic collapse of epic proportions, Zinedane Zidane’s men can, as expected, already look ahead to who they will be facing in the quarter-finals.
So, where does this leave Roma? Of course, the Giallorossi will give their all in Madrid next month, regardless of how impossible the task ahead may seem. After all, if they can manage to score one goal, it will cause Real some worries; if they somehow manage two, then it’s game on. But with that unlikely to happen – and even if it does – Real will manage to score at their home ground, Spaletti’s side should already prepare to say arrivederci to their European campaign and focus all their energies into fully reviving their domestic one.
Dumped out of the Coppa Italia by lower-tier side Spezia, Roma only have – in theory, at least – the Scudetto to play for. Even that will be a tall order; although Juventus managed to come from near the relegation zone to top spot with 15 straight wins, the Bianconeri were helped by the wobbles of some of the teams near the top, including Inter, Roma, and Fiorentina. Don’t expect Massimiliano Allegri’s men, who are now on top for the first time all season to just throw it all away. Still, under Spaletti, the Lupi have strung together a solid four-match winning streak and have a chance to extend it to five as they welcome Palermo to the Stadio Olimpico.
At this point, third place should be their objective so that they can have another crack at Europe’s most premier competition for the 2016/2017 season. They obviously should go to Madrid next month and give it their all, but given that the odds are heavily stacked against them, their objective should be to avoid another drubbing they suffered at the hands of Barcelona at the Camp Nou and keep the score-line respectable. All in all, considering how poor they were in their group stage campaign, Roma, despite the loss on Wednesday evening, can still hold their heads up high and use this as a learning lesson and incentive to throw all their energies into fully reviving their Serie A campaign.