Off the pace in Serie A, Roma can once again rely on Jose Mourinho to lead them on a long European run to save their season.
Mourinho is in his third campaign in charge in the Italian capital and has already led Roma to victory in their inaugural Europa Conference League and then a Europa League final which they lost on penalties to Sevilla.
However, in Serie A they continue to lag behind, having finished sixth in each of the Portuguese manager’s two campaigns so far.
They are currently seventh, 11 games into this season, and that’s only after a dramatic comeback to beat Lecce 2-1 at the Stadio Olimpico last weekend, with Sardar Azmoun and Romelu Lukaku both scoring delays.
Roma are 11 points adrift of leaders Mourinho’s old side Inter and four behind fourth-placed Napoli with the derby clash with Lazio coming up this Sunday.
It is likely, then, that they will need success in the Europa League if they are to qualify for next season’s Champions League, which is the stage they and Mourinho really want to be at.
With a friendly draw, Roma have a 100 per cent record so far in Group G, having beaten Serif Tiraspol 2-1 in Moldova and Switzerland’s Servette 4-0 at home before losing 2-0 to Slavia Prague the last time.
They now travel to the Czech capital to face Slavia again on Thursday, knowing a win will once again secure their place in the knockout stages.
Lukaku’s form has been key for Roma this season, both domestically and at European level, with the Belgian striker netting nine times in 12 games since joining on loan from Chelsea at the end of his most recent spell at Inter.
Notably, he has scored in every Europa League game so far and Roma’s chances of reaching a third European final in as many seasons under Mourinho may depend on Lukaku staying fit and firing.
“He scores goals everywhere and in every competition: when he’s on your side, you have a better chance of winning,” Mourinho said after the win over Slavia a fortnight ago.
Roma aren’t the only team who can clinch a place in the knockout stages this week – Jurgen Klopp’s Liverpool will qualify if they can make it four wins from four in Group E when they visit Toulouse, having beaten the French side 5-1 at home last time.
German Bundesliga leaders Bayer Leverkusen also have maximum points and could seal their place in the knockout stages with a win over Qarabag in Azerbaijan.
Flying under the guidance of Xabi Alonso, Leverkusen are unbeaten in all competitions this season and have won their last 10 matches, with Nigerian striker Victor Boniface already in double figures for goals.
He scored six times in last season’s Europa League for Belgian side Union Saint-Gilloise before moving to Germany in July.
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