Roma-Milan Preview: Eternal Hell

While those who a month ago still had Milan as Scudetto favorites have completely written Milan off, watching the last few games is a special kind of hell for Milan fans. It's kind of like watching a plane with your entire family take a nosedive, and whatever faith that you had in the pilot fades as the plane plummets faster toward the earth with little or no sign of pulling out of the dive. The Milan plane still has a chance of surviving, but many look at this game as the point of no return if Milan do not perform well. Facing a Roma team that has performed better than expected under controversies this season makes it that much worse. If Milan do not show up for this match, then 90 minutes in the Eternal City will feel more like eternal hell.

Eternal hellraiser

Roma just had their stadium plans scrapped this week, but they finished off Portuguese side Braga with a convincing 3-1 win on Thursday in the Europa League. Their 5-1 aggregate score between the two matches also set them up for the Round of 16, where they learned that they will face Shakhtar Donetsk. For Thursday's match, Fonseca lined up Pau Lopez; Karsdorp, Mancini, Cristante, Bruno Peres; Diawara, Veretout, Villar; Pedro Rodriguez, El Shaarawy; Dzeko. 

If you recognized a couple of those names, yes, that is our former wantaway young midfielder, Cristante, playing at center back. He is also somehow the Roma captain following the Dzeko fiasco, and scored a goal in that match... for Braga. El Shaarawy left many Milan fans with a small tear in our hearts, it will be hard to see him again on Sunday after his recent return from China. Fonseca has some crucial injuries, most notably Dzeko, who has been ruled out for this match. Still missing is Zaniolo, and Ibanez will also miss this one, while Smalling is a last minute fitness evaluation after a muscular injury. As Roma do, their form has been up and down this season. Thursday's victory came after a disappointing 0-0 draw to Benevento on Sunday in Serie A.

Ironically, most of these players will likely be missing

Pioli's injury list has finally been whittled down to Mandzukic, who will definitely miss this one, and Bennacer, who is doubtful, but could possibly return to the bench. Pioli currently has bigger problems in that after the injury crisis, now his entire squad's mentality has gone missing. After an unsettling 1-1 draw on Thursday with Red Star, Milan eeked through on an away goal to qualify for the Round of 16. Having drawn Manchester United, widely considered one of the favorites to win the Europa League this season, it seems like that matchup will more likely weigh heavily on an already perilous mentality in the squad.

When Roma came to San Siro in October, it was a tragedy of errors, most specifically Giacomelli's errors, for which he was swiftly and heavily punished for by the Italian Referee Association. Also, Tatarusanu's errors, which were shockingly more egregious than the refereeing. But Gigio Donnarumma should be in net this time. After Romagnoli has been the target of many Milan fans' ire lately, this would be a perfect match for him to step up and have a big game to prove them wrong, especially given his hatred of the club whose youth system he grew up in. Although Milan fans will still hate him, that is on them.

It will be fierce like that

This match could be important in the battle for the Champions League spots. Milan are in second, with 49 points, while Roma sit in fourth place with 44 points. With the top six teams all within ten points of each other, the season could take a turn for any of these teams at any point. Milan's trajectory desperately needs to change just to stay in the race, with this game being more crucial to the mentality than even the points. For example, if plucky Genoa manage to take down Inter on Sunday afternoon, a Milan win in this match would put us just one point behind the top spot again. Totally different conversation if that happened.

The most difficult part about this match is that no one really knows what to expect from either team on Sunday. Which Roma will show up? The team that drew to Benevento or the team that charitably destroyed Braga? Will this be the match where Milan suddenly pull out of their nosedive? Or will they do just enough to get a draw? Or worse? All eyes are on this match this week, because for either side or both, the performance alone could give us 90 minutes of a seemingly eternal hell.

This match inspired by the music of AC/DC's "Highway to Hell"

Serie A Week 24
Roma vs. Milan
Sunday, February 28 • 20:45 CET (2:45pm EST)
This match can be streamed LIVE in the U.S. on ESPN+

Roma-Milan Preview: Eternal Hell Roma-Milan Preview: Eternal Hell Reviewed by Elaine on 11:43 PM Rating: 5
Powered by Blogger.