Let’s be honest, no one could have expected this. When the Champions League draw was made and AS Roma were drawn out with reigning Premier League champions Chelsea and two-times runner up Atletico Madrid it looked like it was going to be extremely tough for Roma to even qualify for the next round, let alone what actually happened.
But on the basis of the six games in this group stage, Roma deserved to finish top of Group C.
It was a tight margin, finishing ahead of Chelsea on head-to-head record but that’s besides the point. Some of the performances that the team put in, mainly against Chelsea at home and Atletico at home with the latter game showing a different side to Roma.
A side that showed they are capable of sitting back, soaking up pressure and frustrating teams. The reserve fixture at the Wanda Metropolitan, however, was a different story but thankfully at the end of the day didn’t have any baring on how the group ended.
But the performance that stands out in my mind will be that home tie against Chelsea, the game that made Europe stand up and take notice of this “new era” Roma, the post Francesco Totti Roma.
They were defensively great, controlled the midfield battle and had every Chelsea defender in knots whenever they attacked. This was the game that took Roma to another level. They stopped being that team that neutrals loved because they’d never be a threat to now being a side that no one wants to draw in the knockout rounds.
And a lot of this should be credited to manager Eusebio Di Francesco, who had a huge job on his hands following the departures of Totti and Luciano Spalletti, as well as Monchi arriving at the club but the former Sassuolo man has been able to make a squad similar to what Spalletti had and make it more dynamic and made it a team that doesn’t shy away from a challenge and didn’t choke when it mattered.
Roma have massively exceeded in the Champions League this season, but they’re a team now that no one wants to draw in the knockout round. If Roma someone like Leipzig or Bayern Munich you’d actually fancy them to get something out of it.
They’re a good team to watch and I can only imagine they’d be a very tough one to play against. But regardless of who they draw in the next round, this group stage has given us the Roma we knew were waiting to come out. A Roma that was fearless, intelligent and exciting to watch.
They’ve exceeded expectations in this group massively by not only getting out of it, but by topping the group itself. Who’s to say that they can’t keep up this momentum and keep winning games. Who knows how far they’ll go?