Roma take a 2-1 lead into Porto, look to move on to quarter-finals.
A horrendous defeat, a coach on the hot seat, multiple players in poor form, Roma has been here before, and so history repeats itself. It seems the sky was falling last time for Roma when the giallorossi met Porto for the first leg of the UEFA Champions League Round of 16. Indeed, all of the aforementioned negative connotations were very present on February 11th, one day before that same first leg that saw an underperforming and uninspired Roma squad defeat Porto 2-1 at Stadio Olimpico. The point in bringing up this bad history is of course because once again the Romans have no choice but to show the same resolve they exhibited in February.
Being shut out by Lazio was frankly downright embarrassing, Eusebio Di Francesco should be on the hot seat, and Federico Fazio probably should be sold or loaned off somewhere as soon as possible. However, in the grand scheme of things, it was a minor setback that will build character. The short term implications of the match’s effect on the domestic league will be an afterthought should Roma secure overall victory on Wednesday. It does not seem to matter what sport is in question, the simple fact is that winning cures all and a win in the Champions League is worth two or three wins in Serie A.
We know what happened in Rome this weekend, but what’s going on in Portugal? Porto finds itself in a similar situation as Roma, though less dire and undoubtedly with less drama surrounding a coach’s future. Suffering a rare loss to the second-place Benfica, Porto recently lost their stranglehold on the Primeira Liga. Saturday’s match was their first loss since the UCL defeat at Rome, and it came against a ten man squad. Porto was unable to overcome a one-goal deficit with thirteen minutes plus stoppage time against the shorthanded Benfica squad, surrendering first place.
With both sides looking to bounce back against though losses, viewers should expect more offense than one would normally see going into a close second leg. I predicted Roma would triumph by an aggregate of 4-3. This would require a 2-2 draw which at this point is more likely than not. Near the closure of the first leg, pundits bemoaned Roma conceding a late goal, all but discounting the win. Porto should not expect to shut down Roma’s offense simply because they are playing at home.
EDF’s squad can certainly be criticized and blamed for being wildly inconsistent, but they cannot be counted out after a poor loss for which they have shown resilience in the past. Expect the squad to come out strong and play with a mix of anger and determination. I shall stick with my original prediction, a 2-2 draw with Roma moving on to the next round.