Apr 11th, 2018, 01:58 PM

A.S. Roma Rises from the Ruins

By Leona Caanen
Image Credit: WikiMedia/Fabio Guardabassi 2001
They managed a victory that F.C. Barcelona did not see coming.

A.S. Roma did not think they could beat F.C. Barcelona in their second qualification match. Whoever gained the most points would continue on to the semi-finals of the Champions League, and the 4-1 victory for F.C. Barcelona was assumed to have confirmed their seat. Yet the impossible dream of qualifying became a reality for the Italians. For the last two years, F.C. Barcelona has not made it to the semi-finals of the Champions League after winning in the 2014-15 season. A.S. Roma, though, has not made it to the semi-finals since 1983-84. Yet, what is so magical about AS Roma making it to the semi's is not that it is the first time in a long time is how it happened.

Every round in the Champions League consists of two games determining which of two teams continue. This quarterfinal round, A.S. Roma played F.C. Barcelona. Their first match, at Camp Nou, held a home-victory for Barcelona, 4-1. The Spanish victory included two own-goals from Roma players Daniele De Rossi and Kostas Manolas. It was an embarrassing defeat for the Italians. For the Spaniards, it looked like their position in the semi-finals of the Champions League was within reach.

Image Credit: Wikimedia/2016–17 FC Barcelona at the Match of Champions

Yet when the Italians played on their home turf at Stadio Olimpico something changed, and it brought along a comeback like no other. What for F.C. Barcelona was a heart-breaking loss, was a dream come true for the Romans. Their 3-0 victory over the Spaniards was unexpected, not just for the football players, but for the fans as well. This comeback that has been titled the second-best comeback in Champions League History.

For F.C. Barcelona, the devastating loss to the Italian team, and the third time not qualifying for the Champions League finals shows it might be time for a change. F.C. Barcelona might have to move away from a Lionel Messi centered strategy, who was the top scorer for the club in 2017. Additionally, F.C. Barcelona Coach Ernesto Valverde got a lot of negative critiques as he did not make any changes or substitutions until the 80th minute. When you're down 2-0, it seems foolish to make a change in the last 10 minutes of the game.

Instead, Eusebio Di Francesco, the coach of A.S. Roma, was the one who came with a new strategy.  The Romans changed their strategy due to the head coach's plans - he took a big risk by dreaming big. The changes were noticeable throughout the whole field. A.S. Roma started putting pressure on the defense of F.C. Barcelona and set their defense to maintain a high line, which was a risky choice, knowing F.C. Barcelona's Messi might outrun their defenders. Yet, the set up of a lot of pressure and a defense positioned high on the field forced the Spaniards to make longer passes, that were, in turn, intercepted by the Romans. Coach Di Francesco, together with the players made it work and placed themselves in the semi-finals of the Champions League.


The semi-finals will take place on April 24 and 25, as well as May 1 and 2. The final takes place on 26 May at the NSC Olimpiyskiy stadium in Kiev.