Roma v Manchester United
Thursday 06 May, 20:00
Live on BT Sport 2
Roma tempted by lustre of Mourinho
The football world moves quickly, and on the same day as Roma confirmed they were parting company with coach Paulo Fonseca at the end of the season, they announced the impending arrival of Jose Mourinho as his replacement. The Portuguese coach who is being replaced has carried himself with dignity in difficult circumstances (his job has been speculated about for months), and in a strange twist, Fonseca has been linked with Mourinho’s old job at Tottenham.
Roma’s season effectively came to an end last week, as they were eventually blown away 6-2 by Manchester United at Old Trafford. Defensive demons have plagued the club recently thanks to a combination of injuries and poor form, and the Giallorossi had no answer to United’s quality in attack. Given that Roma lost 2-0 at Sampdoria at the weekend to fall nine points behind in the race for the top six, there is a serious possibility that Mourinho will be walking into a club that has no European football.
It appears that the rigours of a long European campaign have caught up with Roma and Fonseca. They have lost four of their last six games in all competitions, and they haven’t won since a narrow victory over Bologna last month.
Given that Roma need five goals without reply to turn this tie around, it’s fair to say that playing for pride is all that remains.
Roma lost three players to injury at Old Trafford, and none of them are expected to return for this one. Edin Dzeko scored in the first leg to keep up his excellent record against United at Old Trafford, and he will probably get the nod again ahead of Borja Mayoral. Hapless backup keeper Antonio Mirante will hope to be chosen ahead of rival Daniel Fuzato, who failed to impress at the weekend.
Well-rested United on course for Europa glory
Whoever they face in Gdansk on May 26, Manchester United will be favourites, and they’ll be confident of lifting their first major trophy under Ole Gunnar Solskjaer. The Norwegian has paid this competition the respect it deserves in the last couple of seasons, and having slipped up in the semi-finals against Sevilla last term, he looks set to at last reach a final as the coach of his beloved club.
United fell behind against Roma last week, but they played some beautiful football as they came roaring back, and they have some world-class players. Bruno Fernandes and Paul Pogba are matchwinners in midfield, while Edinson Cavani has presence and experience in attack. For all of the qualities that Mason Greenwood, Anthony Martial and Marcus Rashford possess, none of them are the old-school number nine that Cavani epitomises so well. The Uruguayan scored twice in last week’s 6-2 hammering of Roma.
United’s game against Liverpool on Sunday was postponed due to protests at Old Trafford against the ownership of the club, so Solskjaer has no fresh injury concerns. Only a totally disastrous display would see United come even close to being eliminated, so we could see some rotation, but I’d still expect to see Fernandes line up in midfield, and it’d be a surprise not to see Cavani in attack.
Safe United a little too short
I’m always a little wary about backing teams that don’t have an imperative to win, and United don’t really appeal in the Match Odds market at 1.9520/21. For example, they smashed Real Sociedad 4-0 in the first leg of their round-of-32 tie, but drew the second leg 0-0. I’m not saying they aren’t rightful favourites here, but I’m just not sure they should be priced at odds-on.
Roma fell apart last week, but they’ve only lost one of their last six at home, and are still a good side. I’ll steer clear of this market.
Sides may go through the motions
I was surprised to see No in the Both Teams To Score market priced at 2.789/5 here, because if United resist an initial flurry, the heat could leak out of this game really quickly. United have bigger tests ahead, and may look to conserve energy, while Roma haven’t totally given up on qualifying for Europe next term. United have kept clean sheets in nine of their last 15 games in all competitions, and I’ll back No in the BTTS market at 2.789/5.
Alternatively, you could back Under 2.5 Goals at 2.6613/8. The markets seem too heavily influenced by last week’s first leg.