Verdict: Home win
Best odds: 4/5
AS Roma are set to host Feyenoord at the Stadio Olimpico on Thursday evening in the second leg of their encounter in the quarterfinals of the Europa League. The Eredivisie side travel to Rome with a one-goal advantage, courtesy of a fine strike by Mats Wieffer.
The season is going relatively well for Roma on two fronts. They were knocked out of the Coppa Italia in the quarterfinals by Cremonese, and it seems that being involved in one competition less has helped their efforts to stay focused in the Serie A and the Europa League.
In the Italian top flight, they’re on the right track to booking a place in next season’s Champions League. After 30 rounds, they’re third with 56 points, six less than city rivals Lazio in second, three more than AC Milan in fourth, and five more than Inter Milan in fifth. They’ve taken full advantage of a recent blip in the results by the two Milan clubs to propel themselves into the top four, and with Jose Mourinho as their head coach, they won’t throw all that hard work away lightly.
Roma’s last-six run in all competitions started with a goalless draw away to Real Sociedad, which was enough to see them get to the Europa League quarterfinals. Then they lost the Derby of Rome 1-0 to Lazio, beat Sampdoria at home by 3-0, beat Torino 0-1 away, lost the first leg away to Feyenoord by 1-0, and eventually smashed Udinese 3-0 at home.
In this game, they will do their best to nullify and overturn Feyenoord’s advantage, boosted by the support from the stands of the Olimpico.
Forward Ola Solbakken and former Feyenoord defender Rick Karsdorp remain unavailable for this clash, but Mourinho will be very pleased with the news that Tammy Abraham and Paulo Dybala, his preferred attacking combination, should be fit following the problems they picked up in the first leg.
Rui Patricio will be in goal, with the trio of Roger Ibanez, Chris Smalling and Gianluca Mancini forming the back line. Nemanja Matic and Georginio Wijnaldum in the middle of the park should have Nicola Zalewski and Leonardo Spinazzola marauding up and down the flanks, while Lorenzo Pellegrini supports Dybala and Abraham upfront.
Meanwhile, things have gone even better for Feyenoord in 2022/23. They last won the Eredivisie title in 2016/17, and now, with a nine-point advantage over second-place Ajax, as well as third-place PSV Eindhoven, and just five rounds remaining to be played, they are well on their way to repeat the feat and lift the trophy reserved for the Dutch football Champions for the 16th time in their illustrious history.
Not many will have seen Arne Slot’s team as the more likely to emerge from this double-header with smiles on their faces, but the victory achieved in Rotterdam will have given their supporters some genuine hope that it could happen.
Another cause for that hope to exist is the fact that Feyenoord have been on very good form recently. They lost just one of the last six matches played in all competitions, a 1-2 defeat to Ajax in the semifinals of the KNVB Cup. The remaining five results were all victories, 2-3 away to Ajax, 1-3 away to Sparta Rotterdam, 5-1 over RKC Waalwijk at home, 1-0 over Roma in the first leg, and 0-3 away to Cambuur.
The only player unavailable for selection in Rome will be midfielder Quentin Timber.
Justin Bijlow will stand between the posts. David Hancko and Gernot Trauner will form the centre-back partnership, with Lutsharel Geertruida on the right and Quilindschy Hartman on the left. Wieffer, the hero of the first leg, will anchor the midfield, with captain Orkun Kokcu and Sebastian Szymanski playing between the boxes. Upfront, Alireza Jahanbakhsh and Oussama Idrissi are expected to flank striker Santiago Gimenez.
Roma successfully stifled Feyenoord’s attacking spirit for the most part of the first leg in Rotterdam, with Wieffer’s goal coming with a fair dose of luck for the Dutch side. Now, however, Mourinho’s side need to attack and score, so it’s probably a different proposition.
Still, after digging deep into their locker, the Giallorossi will likely discover what they need to be able to achieve their goal, or at least take the contest into extra time.
Verdict: Home win
Best odds: 4/5
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