Last season’s finalists Roma will host Servette in the Europa League on Thursday. On the first matchday, Jose Mourinho’s team narrowly defeated Sheriff Tiraspol. Servette’s group stage debut ended in defeat to Slavia Prague.
Preview (Roma vs. Servette)
Roma only just defeated Sheriff in Transnistria two weeks ago. They dominated the smaller UEFA competitions over the previous two seasons. One of the few bright spots in what has otherwise been a terrible start to the season for Mourinho and Roma was that hard-fought victory. Given that Roma’s two league victories this season have come against Empoli, who finished last, and newly promoted Frosinone, they have earned the nickname “flat-track bullies.” Only Inter Milan and Napoli have scored more goals than the Giallorossi. They are currently in 13th place, thanks to their thumping of Empoli.
Their sluggish start was summed up by a 4-1 loss at Genoa last midweek. They will be hoping that Europe will offer a nice diversion from their home problems. Romelu Lukaku’s brilliant performance against Sheriff gave Roma the advantage. He scored a wonderful solo goal that proved to be the game-winner. Lukaku has now scored in 12 successive Europa League games. It is a stunning streak that started with his goal against the Moldovan champions. Since scoring in a 2-0 victory for Everton away at Wolfsburg in 2014, Lukaku has scored 16 goals in those 12 games, with that goal in Tiraspol marking his first for Roma in Europe.
The European group stage newcomers travel to Italy for the first time in competitive play. They do so after a dismal campaign debut. Servette has only won two of their other 14 games so far. With the exception of two cup victories over teams from lower leagues. This shaky start was reinforced by their loss to Slavia at home on matchday one. Additionally, their road performance in Europe does not inspire much confidence. They have only managed one victory in their last six travels there. Weiler will nevertheless be hopeful after Servette’s victory over Lausanne at the weekend. It broke an eight-game losing streak and would serve as the impetus for a turnaround in their fortunes.
Although they needed Lukaku to save them, Mourinho rotated his team against Sheriff so that Roma could line up similarly. Renato Sanches began in Moldova but he has sustained an injury that will prevent him from playing in this match. Due to the absences of Chris Smalling, Diego Llorente, and Marash Kumbulla, the hosts will be without a number of defensive options. Bryan Cristante started in defense against Frosinone at the weekend. He might be forced to play there again because of those absences. Tammy Abraham is also out after damaging his ACL during the preseason.
In contrast, Servette only has two players sidelined due to injury: Theo Magnin and Alexander Lyng. Miroslav Stevanovic, a vital player for the Swiss team, comes into the game in excellent form after scoring in his last two games. Joel Mall, a Cypriot international who was born in Switzerland and has played in four games, was reinserted into the starting lineup for the victory over Lausanne. Roma has thus far drastically underwhelmed, but much like in the previous two European campaigns, games on the continent have given much-needed reprieve. If Servette loses tonight, it will look highly impossible that they will advance even at this early point because their start has probably been considerably worse and they are already playing catchup.
Roma 3 – 1 Servette
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