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Champions League experience, that's why Manchester City was too much for Roma
For the second season in a row there's only one Italian club in the CL Round of 16. The Giallorossi still have a long path in front of them to compete with the best European sides
by Federico Formica
Qualification was a hair's breadth away, but in the end Roma was knocked-out of the Champions League by Manchester City. Pellegrini's side played a great game at the Olimpico and deserved to go through. As everybody knows, City won 0-2 as Samir Nasri broke the deadlock in the 59th minute and Pablo Zabaleta closed the game with 5 minutes to the final whistle.

The 0-2 might seem an unfair result as Roma hit more shots (15 vs 9), created more chances (13 vs 8) and was even better in the take ons (25 vs 15) and tackles count (47% vs 23%), but data don't say all the truth. As the same Rudi Garcia admitted, Manchester City proved themselves a more experienced and self-confident side, they never showed to be in a hurry even if, after 45 minutes, the Citizens were virtually out from the main European competition. Roma didn't capitalise the great chances they had in the first 20 minutes with Holebas and twice with Gervinho.

"We created many chances but we didn't score, and if you don't do it, you can be punished especially if you face a great side like Manchester City" Adem Ljajić said. After the first 30 minutes Roma gradually retreated, conceding ever more space to Citizens' overlaps and forward runs. The Giallorossi struggled a lot in the offensive transitions: only one or two players ran forward when the team reconquered the ball and it was impossible, for the player in possession, to make a pass. The reason for that is Man City's effective pressing, but also Roma's fear to leave too much space behind them.

There's no better testing ground than the Champions League for emerging and ambitious clubs. When CL returns a verdict, you can be certain it's fair. Roma are still not ready to compete with the best European teams, even if the Giallorossi fought for qualification until the 59th minute of the last game (something that none took for granted after the draw), it's unlikely that they would have passed the Round of 16, which was the club's main goal this season. And for a reason.

Even Juventus, which dominated Serie A the last three seasons, welcomed the knock-out stage qualification as a great outcome, although their group wasn't as hard as Roma's (the Bianconeri faced Atletico Madrid, Olympiakos and Malmo). Champions League is not just one, but at least ten steps forward if compared to Italian Serie A. Roma's best result in the CL is quarter finals in 2006-2007 and 2007-2008 and the last they were in the competition was four years ago (Roma was knocked-out by Shakhtar in the Round of 16). Except Keita, Maicon and Totti, none of Roma's starters ever competed at the highest levels. Experience is a key factor in this competition and the Giallorossi are building it, step by step.

Rudi Garcia is right when he says that "this result reminds us the long path we still have in front of us". It's a long and rough way to compete with Chelsea, Manchester City, Barcelona, Real Madrid and Bayern Munich and you can't walk through it in one season. That's the reason why Roma's participation to Europa League is good to get more international practice and it must be taken seriously.

In the meanwhile, for the second season in a row there's only one Italian club in the CL Round of 16. Not something to be proud of.

Thursday, December 11 th, 2014
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