A 3-1 loss to Atalanta in the first of many future tests for the Giallorossi hurt AS Roma’s chances of qualifying for the Champions League through a top-four finish in Serie A.
A much-changed Roma team was defeated at the Gewiss Stadium in a tight race to join Napoli in the Champions League the following season by goals from Mario Pasalic and Rafael Toloi each side of halftime, as well as a late Teun Koopmeiners strike.
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Roma entered the game in Bergamo fresh off a taxing 4-1 victory against Feyenoord in the Europa League on Thursday. The contest pushed them all the way to overtime, and coach Jose Mourinho’s enforced rotation backfired. A terrible night was made even worse when star player Paulo Dybala was left limping after a terrible tackle by Jose Luis Palomino.
Roma’s tense encounter
The first of several crucial games for Roma was a battle against an Atalanta team that entered the game in seventh place, as well as visits from AC Milan and Inter in early May.
While the Lupi have improved their record against the teams surrounding them under Mourinho, a difficult schedule could endanger their chances of finishing in the top four, and a win over Atalanta would have given them momentum going into the final stretch.
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The Giallorossi lacked a cutting edge in attack despite some good build-up play in midfield, with captain Lorenzo Pellegrini adept in moving the ball around and striking the post late on.After a recent injury, Ola Solbakken was given the opportunity to play, but he seemed underprepared, and Tammy Abraham’s shooting was errant.
In fact, the Lupi didn’t look dangerous until Dybala came off the bench. However, even after Pellegrini had drilled in a low goal, Atalanta’s goalkeeper Rui Patricio made a mistake that allowed Koopmeiners to secure the victory.
Smalling’s absence highlights defensive weaknesses
Roma entered the game coming off a three-match winning streak in Serie A during which they had not given up a goal and were attempting to win their fourth straight clean sheet game for the first time since October 2013.
Due to the injury to pivotal center-back Chris Smalling, Mourinho’s team was defeated in the first half by a goal from Pasalic after Duvan Zapata found him with a cross. Toloi and Koopmeiners were also able to break through.
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With nine league clean sheets in 2023, the Lupi have based their prospects of making the Champions League on a strong defensive foundation, but Roma has demonstrated the capacity to concentrate on attack and turn games around if this is penetrated.
Following Smalling’s injury against Feyenoord, Diego Llorente’s late hamstring injury leaves Roma weak at the back, further limiting Mourinho’s defensive choices.