The Giallorossi have been in a rich vein of form since Luciano Spalletti returned for a second spell earlier this January. Since his arrival on January 13th, Roma have lost just one of their league matches – a 1-0 reversal to Juventus on January 24th. Still, given that the Bianconeri have not been defeated since the end of October, the loss for the Lupi was not something that set off alarm bells.
Interestingly, just as the defeat by plucky Sassuolo re-invigorated Juventus, Roma rebounded in quite an excellent fashion post the 1-0 loss to La Vecchia Signora. In fact, until Inter held them to a 1-1 draw on March 19th, the Giallorossi had picked up eight consecutive wins which have now seen them solidify their grip on third place.
However, with several games to go between now and May, Roma will be aiming for something even higher. No, not the Champions League – they were dumped out 4-0 on aggregate (as expected) by Real Madrid. No, not the Coppa Italia – as they were embarrassed by lower tier side Spezia in those “dark days” before Spalletti’s return. And, as much as Giallorossi fans will want it, especially given how they have settled for second in the past couple of seasons, the Scudetto appears to be remaining in Turin for yet another term.
No, rather, there is the possibility of second place. Yes, as noted before, it will not be an improvement on their standings over the past two seasons. Yet, a runners-up spot at least guarantees Champions League football. Third spot, by contrast does guarantee a spot in the Champions League – provided that one can make it through the play-offs. And that certainly is not the route Roma will want to take.
Roma will take on Bologna on Monday, a day after Napoli battle Hellas Verona. Having thrashed cross-town rivals Lazio 4-1 in last round’s Derby della Capitale, the Giallorossi will be coming into this match knowing exactly where they stand, but it goes without saying that nothing short of a win will be acceptable. In fact, the results from their next three matches – with struggling outfits Torino and Atalanta set to come next before the big game against Napoli – could be vital in deciding whether Spalletti’s men gain automatic entry to the Champions League or will have to slog their way through a potentially tricky play-off.
Meanwhile, Bologna will arrive at the Stadio Olimpico having lost their past three matches, and with their win taking place against Udinese on February 14th. Still, Roberto Donadoni’s side, who sit in 12th, just need four points to reach that magical 40 that guarantees safety. The Rossoblu are certainly no strangers to holding teams to frustrating draws. They already did so against Roma in a 2-2 stalemate earlier this season and so far, are the only side to prevent Juve from scoring in Serie A since La Vecchia Signora’s loss to Sassuolo on October 28th – certainly not something to scoff at. And one does not have to go too far back to note the last time they showed up in Rome and won: September 16, 2012.
Curiously, Bologna have an odd tendency to seemingly do much better against “bigger” teams but struggle against the “smaller” outfits. For instance, they lost 1-0 to Hellas Verona – this season’s bottom-feeders – which is not something to write home about, which was preceded by a loss to Atalanta – yet another relegation-threatened side. By contrast, they managed to pick up at least one point against the aforementioned Juventus and Roma, as well as versus AC Milan, Napoli, and Fiorentina.
Bologna supporters surely must be wondering what Bologna they will be seeing on Monday evening – the one that holds their own against the “big” sides or the one that wilts against the minnows? One notable absentee for the visitors will be ex-Roma man Mattia Destro due to injury, whilst Emanuele Giaccherini sits out as a result of suspension. As for Roma, they will be missing key midfielder Radja Nainggolan due to a ban.
Edin Dzeko will be the likely first-choice striker, supported by the in-form trio of Stephan El Shaarawy, Diego Perotti, and Mohamed Salah, meaning that there will again be no room for Francesco Totti in the starting XI. Then again, given that he was given no game-time in the derby with Lazio, this should come as little surprise to anyone.
The reverse fixture finished as a two-all draw. Will either of these two sides be able to find a way past each other at the Stadio Olimpico on Monday?
MORE: You can watch live match online with FuboTV 24-hour game pass FREE.