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Rival Q&A: Talking Juventus-Roma with Chiesa di Totti

Roma’s Champions League hopes are fading, but our old buddy from the giallorossi side of SBN Italia still brought it.

Juventus v AS Roma - Serie A Photo by Tullio M. Puglia/Getty Images

Unlike Juventus, the final three games of the 2018-19 season mean something for Claudio Ranieri and Roma. The problem with that is, though, with last weekend’s draw against Genoa, Roma are not in the Champions League logjam like they were just a couple of days earlier. That means, on top of basically facing a must-win situation the next three weeks, Ranieri’s men are going to need a lot of help in the process.

Can they do so?

That’s why I decided to do what I’ve done a good portion of the time when Juventus has faced Roma — brought Chiesa Di Totti’s leading man and my supposed Twitter friend, Mr. Bren, who was just so happy to answer some questions about another frustrating (and probably relatively disappointing) Roma season.

There are plenty of other things hanging over Juve’s final trip to the Italian capital this season — like, you know, the fact that both clubs could very well be in the market for a new manager come a few weeks from now. We already know that Roma will be hiring somebody new after Ranieri announced at his pre-match press conference on Friday that he won’t be coaching his favorite club beyond this season. And we all know the ongoing drama that is #MeetingWatch involving Max Allegri’s future with the club when the inevitable meeting with president Andrea Agnelli actually takes place.

But, for now, there is a game to be played this weekend.

And because there is a game, there were some questions to answered. Thank you as always to Mr. Bren for actually answering them and not just sending gifs to describe what his latest Roma-related mood is.

Away we go!

BWRAO: A certain Twitter account with the handle @chiesaditotti seems to think that the Europa League is inevitable after this past weekend’s draw with Genoa. How viable were Roma’s chances of making the Champions League with a top four finish heading into the final weeks of the season?

CDT: We seldom use the word viable with Roma, that’s a no-no. Their chances were always a bit long, based on the simple fact that they needed help from other sides in addition to winning the matches in front of them. While they’ve received a boost every now and then from Inter or Milan faltering, they haven’t always been able to capitalize--look no further than the recently dropped points against Inter and Genoa.

Of course, they wouldn’t even be in this mess if they, you know, didn’t get swept by SPAL this year.

BWRAO: So the Monchi era was pretty much a complete bust, huh?

CDT: Pretty much, yeah. He brought in some interesting pieces, but his approach to assembling a roster is like me going to the grocery store: I don’t bring a list and I end up there, like, three times a week, and then none of the ingredients match and my recipe goes to shit. He was just a colossal disaster and whatever measure of success they have achieved over the past two years is in spite of him; he’s set Roma back at least three years, if not five when you factor in the team he disassembled, the Spalletti side that finished four points behind y’all.

BWRAO: Is the hope that Antonio Conte can possibly fix all of this?

CDT: I think the more appropriate question is, is there hope Antonio Conte would come to Roma, to which I would say no. A lot of things would have to fall their way for Conte to wind up with Roma, and they’d have to pay him a king’s ransom, not to mention ceding pretty much all control to him, something they’re probably hesitant to do given how poorly the Monchi experiment worked out. Having said all that, if they can get him, then, yes, I think he’s the man to turn this thing around.

BWRAO: A lot of us on the black and white side of the calcio world seem to think that Juventus’ season is a failure based on no serious Champions League run. Is Roma’s season, despite the obviously flawed roster, a failure because there’s probably going to be no Champions League next season?

CDT: Flawed roster!? How dare you!....Yes, it’s a failure. Monchi did a horrible job, but there was still enough talent here to warrant at least a fourth place finish, but thanks to EDFs inability to make a cohesive unit out of these disparate parts, they floundered against lower sides, putting them in this current pickle. There’s still some slim hope, but it looks like the Europa life for us.

BWRAO: If you were to name Roma’s best player of the season, who would it be?

CDT: Stephan El Shaarawy, without a doubt. He’s got 11 goals thus far, his most since his breakout with Milan in 2012, and has been Roma’s best threat all season long. He’s shed the inconsistent label that’s plagued him since moving to Roma and is really the club’s only game-changing talent. He’s still so fast, so nimble and capable of scoring audacious goals that he’s pretty much a threat anywhere on the pitch at any moment. He’s emerging as Roma’s newest fan favorite.

BWRAO: I’m going to go in a completely different direction to get you out of here: Out of all the Serie A blogs here on SBN, you personally have probably given the Serie A women the most attention. How has the women’s game developed over the last year or two in Italy? And how much do you think that kind of development will help Italy at the Women’s World Cup this summer?

CDT: Yeah, I’d be willing to wager I’ve written more about Roma’s women’s team than the actual club ...haha. But I’ve just completely fallen in love with the team and the league as a whole so it’s been a joy to cover. However, I’m still learning on the job, so to speak, especially in terms of contextualizing Serie A with the rest of the world. It’s definitely not the best league in the world (that’s a toss up between America, Germany, Spain and France at the moment), but Fiorentina and Juve are both in the Top 20 UEFA Coefficient rankings, which are really a mishmash of teams from all over the continent, so I’ll be curious to see how/where all the talent coalesces as the game develops more.

Currently, the biggest development in Serie A is the wave of traditional teams (Juve, Milan and Roma recently) essentially replacing and/or absorbing smaller clubs, purchasing their licenses and effectively buying their way into the league. It’s not exactly a heart warming story for those original clubs, but I do like the symmetry between the two leagues. So, going forward, it’s really a matter of the level of investment these teams make in these new ventures. As far as I know, there is a salary cap in the league and the players aren’t in all cases fully professional yet either; two factors that will definitely keep Serie A behind the rest of Europe.

As far as the World Cup is concerned, Italy are in a bit of a tight jam being drawn with Australia and Brazil, who are both ranked top ten in the world, but they are a pretty well balanced side and could eek their way out of the group. Between Milan’s Valentina Giacinti (the capocannoniere) and Daniele Sabatino, as well as the Juve duo of Barbara Bonansea and Cristiana Girelli, Italy has some pretty impressive firepower, but this is their first World Cup in 20 years, so nerves could be a factor.

I could go on for days about this, but Italian football is on the rise and if the Juves, Milans and Romas of the world continue to invest, we should be in good shape going forward.