Each year, the much anticipated UEFA Champions League draw is announced, and each year there is inevitably the quartet that many describe as “The Group of Death”. Last season, it was Arsenal, Napoli, Olympique Marseille, and Borussia Dortmund, in which the Partenopei heart-breakingly missed out on a spot in the final 16 despite earning 12 points–the first ever in the tournament’s history. This time around, it’s arguably Group E, which contains Serie A runners-up Roma, Premier League champions Manchester City, Bundesliga title winners Bayern Munich, and Russian outfit CSKA Moscow that can by far be considered as the toughest out of all eight.
With just two spots up for grabs among three really strong sides, it’s obviously inevitable that someone will have to contend with featuring in Europe’s second-tier competition. Yet, when the draw was announced, many pundits and fans were obviously leaning more towards die Roten and City as the duo to get through, while consigning the Giallorossi to the Europa League, something that after watching how Rudi Garcia’s men dismantled their Russian opponents this past week they may want to reconsider. As Gervinho and Juan Iturbe ran riot against the hapless Russian outfit, with Maicon also getting in on the action to give the capital club their best ever result in their Champions League history, Pep Guardiola’s troops were struggling at the Allianz Arena against a highly organized City side spearheaded by the fantastic performance of Joe Hart.
In fact, it took until the 90th minute for the English international to finally concede with former Man City player Jerome Boateng coming back to haunt his former side and dash the Premier League giant’s hopes of leaving Munich with a much-deserved draw. And while obviously CSKA Moscow are by no means the kind of opposition that Roma will face in Manuel Pellegrini’s (who was serving a touch-line ban) side nor Guardiola’s charges, Garcia’s squad are still top of a difficult group on goal difference, something that will come in handy over the next few games.
Here are a few reasons why not to rule out the Giallorossi’s chances of making it into the round of 16–and perhaps beyond.
1. They appeared to have put the worst behind them and have finally righted the ship after the storm.
Roma’s last appearance in the Champions League was during the 2010/2011 season, in which they were unfortunately dumped out in the round of 16 by Ukrainian outfit Shakhtar after losing 6-2 on aggregate. And since then, the club went through a managerial merry-go-round, seeing in five different faces until finally settling down with the aforementioned Garcia.
And the former Lille boss has taken the team to a whole new level since assuming his position in 2013, guiding them to a respectable second-placed finish with their highest ever points total and, so far have continued to match Juventus blow-for-blow in this season’s Scudetto race. The team, as a whole looks hungry and ready to prover their worth and the French tactician is definitely the man to help them achieve that.