The Giallorossi arguably pulled off one of the most impressive performances so far as they demolished the Yellow Submarine 4-0 in the first leg. Luciano Spalletti’s men absolutely ran riot in the second half, with Edin Dzeko grabbing a hat-trick. Prior to that, Villarreal had conceded just nine home goals in La Liga. Fran Escriba’s side boast the meanest defense in the Spanish top flight. It goes without saying that no one expected the result that stood after the final whistle was blown in Spain, but this season’s European competition has had its fair share of surprises.
Roma have been in excellent form, and come into this game having crushed Torino 4-1. The 4-0 loss marks the worst ever for Villarreal in a home European tie. And to complicate matters, they have a frustrating road record. They are winless in their last five away from home, and have yet to win in nine prior games in Italy (with their best ever result being four draws).
Meanwhile, Roma have a mixed record against Spanish sides at home, but for all intents and purposes, they have pretty much booked their spot in the round of 16. Here’s how dire Villarreal’s situation is: They need to score four goals just to push this game to extra-time. The Yellow Submarine need five to progress. And that is provided that they keep the Giallorossi from scoring – something that, given Dzeko’s red-hot form will be easier said than done, to say the least.
With this tie all but decided, viewers could see both Spalletti and Escriba tinker with their squads and perhaps formation. Villarreal next have to take on Real Madrid, who lost one of their make-up games earlier today to Valencia. Meanwhile, Roma, who are determined to push Juventus for as long as they can in the Scudetto race, face a tough trip to take on Inter, who themselves are vying for a Champions League spot.
Roma have been very strong at home. The last – in fact, the only – team to defeat them at the Stadio Olimpico in all competitions this season was Porto, who dumped them out of the Champions League after beating them 3-0 in the second leg. Their five Serie A defeats all were on the road, and the only side to depart with anything in hand was Austrian side Austria Wien, who managed also to score three times in a six-goal thriller, but that was not enough to prevent the Giallorossi from topping their group.
So, will Roma sign off on this tie with a resounding home win? They’ve done all the hard work, now all that is left is to put that proverbial icing on the cake.