The Stadio Olimpico in Rome will be swaying to the UEFA Champions League anthem on Tuesday night, as Bayern Munich come a-calling. Bayern have already secured their place in the knockout round after picking up four wins in a row while Roma lie in 2nd place in Group E with six points. Bayern were comfortable 2-0 winners in the reverse fixture on Matchday 1 and Claudio Ranieri’s side will need to produce a much better performance if they are to defeat last season’s runners-up. Over the weekend, Bayern drew 1-1 with Bayer Leverkusen while Roma beat Udinese 2-0. Roma have to make all the running in this game and with their fanatical supporters behind them, the Italians will feel confident about getting the right result.
On Saturday, Roma beat Udinese 2-0 thanks to goals from Jeremy Menez and Marco Borriello. The win moved Roma up to 3rd place in Serie A and two points behind their bitter rivals Lazio, who are on 25 points with a game in hand. Their strong standing domestically needs to be translated to the Champions League if they are to make it into the latter stages of the competition. They were beaten 3-1 by Basel on Matchday 3 and with their hopes of progression hanging in the balance, they earned a hard fought 3-2 victory away at Basel on Matchday 4 to reignite their campaign. Roma will qualify to next round if they beat Bayern and Cluj & Basel play out a draw.
Ranieri’s side struggled at the beginning of the season, but have since gathered momentum and are unbeaten in the last eight games in all competitions. But their defensive problems continue to plague them this season. Nicolas Burdisso has been the only constant presence in central defence, with Juan and Phillip Mexes fighting for the other spot. The uncertainty in defence has hampered them, especially from set pieces, thus contributing to their negative goal difference in the Champions League.
Their problems in defence are slightly alleviated by the quality of the midfield. They have Daniel De Rossi, Simone Perrotta and David Pizarro ruling the roost in the centre of the park. The three midfielders compliment each other efficiently, with De Rossi and Perrotta playing box-to-box while Pizarro sits deep and sets up play. Up front, they are blessed with talents of the ever-present Francesco Totti, Marco Boriello, Jeremy Menez and the enigmatic Mirko Vucinic.
The German Champions have been in poor form all season and lie in 8th place with 20 points, 14 points behind leaders Borussia Dortmund. They lost further ground this weekend after they drew 1-1 against rivals Bayer Leverkusen in the Bundesliga. After a stellar season last year, Louis Van Gaal has struggled to inspire his team this time around. But their performances in the Champions League have been exemplary, winning all four games so far. They have cruised through a tricky group with consummate ease to qualify for the knockout phase of the competition with a couple of games to spare. A point against Roma guarantees them top spot in the Group.
At the heart of their impressive performances has been the crop of young German starlets who shone at this year’s World Cup in South Africa. Bastian Schweinsteiger developed into a top quality central midfielder while Thomas Muller and Mario Gomez have grown leaps and bounds over the past twelve months. They play a very traditional 4-4-2 formation with the full backs playing a vital role at either end of the pitch.
Like last season, their problems lie in central defence, where the likes of Martin Demichelis, Daniel Van Buyten and Breno hardly instil confidence into the team. They are vulnerable to pace in behind the defence and will have to be wary of the marauding Roma forwards come Tuesday night.
Probable Line Ups:
Roma (4-3-3): Julio Sergio (Gk), Cassetti, Juan, Burdisso, Castellini, De Rossi, Perrotta, Pizarro, Vucinic, Totti, Menez
The Italians play a very fluid 4-3-3 formation with Julio Sergio in goal. Marco Cassetti will bomb down the right while Pablo Castellini is expected to hold fort at left back. In central defence, Burdisso is expected to be joined by Juan. The midfield should comprise the quality trio of De Rossi, Perrotta and Pizarro. Up front, Ranieri has the option to pick from the attacking quartet of Totti, Menez, Boriello and Vucinic. With a vital three points at stake, Ranieri might give the experienced duo of Totti and Vucinic the nod, with Menez the most likely to play down the wide position.
Bayern Munich (4-4-2): Butt (Gk), Badstuber, Van Buyten, Breno, Lahm, Altintop, Van Bommel, Tymoschuk, Kroos, Gomez, Muller
With qualification to the next round sealed, Louis Van Gaal could well be tempted to make changes to his team and give the younger players a chance to shine. Should he go with his first choice eleven, Hans-Jorg Butt should start in goal while Van Buyten and Breno are expected to pair up in central defence. Holger Badstuber might return at left back while Phillip Lahm should start on the right. With Arjen Robben still out injured, the wide positions have been occupied by the likes of Hamit Altintop and Toni Kroos. In central midfield, Schweinsteiger will miss the game after oicking up three yellow cards, so Mark Van Bommel is expected to partner either Anatoliy Tymoschuk or Daniel Pranjic. Muller and Gomez have been in good form this season and should start up front as the striking duo.