Can Mourinho lead Roma all the way to another European final?
08 November 2023
Paris (AFP) -
Off the pace in Serie A, Roma may once again be relying on Jose Mourinho to lead them on a long European run in order to save their season.
Mourinho is into his third campaign in charge in the Italian capital and has already led Roma to victory in the inaugural Europa Conference League and then to a Europa League final which they lost on penalties to Sevilla.
Yet in Serie A they continue to lag behind, having finished sixth in each of the Portuguese coach's two campaigns so far.
They are currently seventh, 11 games into this season, and that is only after a dramatic comeback to beat Lecce 2-1 at the Stadio Olimpico last weekend, with Sardar Azmoun and Romelu Lukaku both scoring stoppage-time goals.
Roma are 11 points adrift of the leaders, Mourinho's old side Inter, and four points behind Napoli in fourth, with a derby showdown against Lazio to come this Sunday.
It is possible, then, that they may require Europa League success if they are to make it into next season's Champions League, which is the stage where they and Mourinho really want to be.
Handed a kind draw, Roma have a 100 percent record so far in Group G, having beaten Sheriff Tiraspol 2-1 in Moldova and Swiss side Servette 4-0 at home before a 2-0 defeat of Slavia Prague last time out.
They now travel to the Czech capital to face Slavia again on Thursday, knowing a win will secure their place in the knockout phase again.
Lukaku's form has been key for Roma this season, both domestically and in Europe, with the Belgian striker having scored nine times in 12 games since joining on loan from Chelsea at the end of his most recent spell at Inter.
He has notably netted in every Europa League game so far and Roma's chances of reaching a third European final in as many seasons under Mourinho may hinge on Lukaku staying fit and firing.
'He scores everywhere and in every competition: when he is in your side, you have more chance to win,' Mourinho said after the win over Slavia a fortnight ago.
Roma are not the only team who can clinch a place in the knockout phase this week -- Jurgen Klopp's Liverpool will advance if they can make it four wins out of four in Group E when they visit Toulouse, having beaten the French side 5-1 at home last time out.
German Bundesliga leaders Bayer Leverkusen also have maximum points and so could wrap up a berth 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 games, with Nigerian striker Victor Boniface already into double figures for goals.
He netted six times in last season's Europa League for Belgian side Union Saint-Gilloise before making the move to Germany in July.