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The Giallorossi will not have everything their own way in Tirana, but they have the quality to beat Feyenoord.
Back Roma to win the Europa Conference League final (+130)
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It is fair to say there were plenty of doubters when UEFA announced it would introduce a third continental competition at the start of this season. Many did not see the point. UEFA was accused of only being interested in money. Fans in England in particular struggled to see why the Europa Conference League was necessary. For the likes of Manchester United, who finished just two points clear of the sole Premier League qualification spot this term, it would have been viewed as a major inconvenience.
But the Conference League was not created for Manchester United and their like. It was set up to give smaller clubs in big leagues, and big clubs in smaller leagues, a chance to compete in Europe. The group stage consisted of 32 teams from 26 different countries – including Gibraltar, Armenia and Estonia, nations that had never had a representative in a European group stage before.
The Conference League has delivered moments that thousands of soccer fans will never forget – and that is before we even get to Roma and Feyenoord, the two finalists. Bodo/Glimt, who have only ever won the Norwegian league twice, reached the last eight. Leicester City took part in a European semi-final for the first time. Mura, whose stadium in northeastern Slovenia can hold just 4,500 fans, beat Antonio Conte’s Tottenham Hotspur.
The Europa Conference League has been an unqualified success, and various sets of supporters around the continent will be looking forward to next season’s edition already: Buducnost Podgorica (Montenegro), Gomel (Belarus), Gabala (Azerbaijan), Konyaspor (Turkey), Dundee United (Scotland), Velez Mostar (Bosnia-Herzegovina) are among the teams that have booked their place in the qualifying rounds for 2022/23.
As Jose Mourinho himself recently pointed out, Roma are a big club with a rather sparse trophy cabinet. They have won only three Serie A titles in their 94-year history. Roma have never lifted a major European trophy, unless you count the 1961 Inter-Cities Fairs Cup (the forerunner to the UEFA Cup/Europa League). Victory on Wednesday would thus automatically make the 2021/22 campaign one of the greatest of all time for the Giallorossi.
Roma have got this far despite a few mishaps along the way. They were on the wrong end of a stunning result in the group phase, as Bodo/Glimt beat them 6-1. They lost to the same opponents in the first leg of the quarter-finals, before turning the tie around at the Stadio Olimpico. In the semis, Roma edged out Leicester 2-1 on aggregate.
A sixth-place finish in Serie A was somewhat underwhelming. Roma could perhaps have pushed harder for the top four, especially as Atalanta were unable to maintain their level of recent years and Juventus failed to impress under the returning Max Allegri. Roma will look back with regret at dropped points against the likes of Venezia, Genoa and Sampdoria.
Still, a triumph in the Conference League would make up for their failure to contend for a Champions League spot. And given this is Mourinho’s first season at the helm, he will justifiably argue that he needs more time to make this team more consistent in Serie A.
In the modern era, it is hard for clubs like Feyenoord to compete at the highest level of European soccer. Sides from England, Spain and Germany have dominated the Champions League in recent times. The last team to win the tournament from a different country was Inter (Italy) in 2010. The last Dutch side to triumph in the Champions League was Ajax in 1995. It is difficult to envisage another Eredivisie team winning Europe’s biggest prize any time soon.
Feyenoord have a rich history in continental competition, having won the European Cup in 1970 and the UEFA Cup in 1974 and 2002. The introduction of the Conference League has given them the opportunity to win silverware at the continental level again.
Feyenoord have been hugely impressive in this tournament up to now. They have not lost any of their 12 matches and knocked out a fine Marseille side in the semi-finals. They might be underdogs for the final, but they will be quietly confident of pulling off another upset.
We would advise backing Roma to triumph, though. Mourinho knows what it takes to win trophies, and his team possesses more match-winners in its ranks. We can see this being a tight, low-scoring match – European finals often are – but would recommend putting your money behind Roma on Wednesday.
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|Roma vs Feyenoord Information|
|Teams||Roma vs Feyenoord|
|Location||Arena Kombetare, Tirana, Albania|
|Time||Wednesday, 25 May 2022, 3.00 PM EDT|
|How to watch||Paramount+|
Greg Lea is a freelance soccer journalist from London. He is the former editor of The Set Pieces, and has contributed to the Guardian, FourFourTwo, and ESPN. A Crystal Palace fan, he is a long-time subscriber to the belief that it's the taking part that counts. Email: [email protected]More info on Greg Lea
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