Rivals Watch: Roma

Manchester United’s upcoming UEFA Europa League semi-final opponents AS Roma had a difficult weekend in Serie A.

On Thursday, the Reds welcome the Giallorossi to the Theatre of Dreams in the penultimate stage of this year's competition.

This will be seventh time we've faced the side from the Italian capital and our first meeting for 13 years. In 2007 and in 2008, Sir Alex Ferguson’s men overcame Roma in the Champions League knock-out stages, including that famous 7-1 triumph under the floodlights at Old Trafford.

But what can we expect from the Romans this time around, after matchweek 33 in Italy's top flight?

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Cristiano Ronaldo and Patrice Evra
United fired seven past Roma at Old Trafford in 2007.

The capital outfit have had an up-and-down campaign so far but suffered a blow on Sunday when losing to relegation candidates Cagliari. Charalampos Lykogiannis gave the Sardinians an early lead, but Carles Perez restored parity on the half-hour mark.

The game got away from Roma during a 13-minute spell in the second period, thanks to goals from Razvan Marin and Joao Pedro, meaning former Tottenham defender Federico Fazio's effort was a mere consolation.

That disappointing result means Paulo Fonseca’s team remain seventh in Serie A, three points behind Lazio in the UEFA Conference League qualification spot. Their city rivals, who have Andreas Pereira on loan from the Reds this campaign, have two games in hand, however.

Ex-Red Chris Smalling made his return from a six-week-long injury spell before being subbed off on the hour mark at the Sardegna Arena. The centre-back, who joined United in 2010 and left in 2020 following a successful loan spell in the Italian capital the previous campaign, is in contention to feature against his former side.

We could also see another familiar face at Old Trafford on Thursday, as Henrikh Mkhitaryan, who played a vital part in our 2016/17 Europa League success, was brought on by manager Paulo Fonseca with half an hour remaining.

It was clear that the Giallorossi had on eye on Thursday's clash with United as several star names were rested. 

Among those awarded time off were former AC Milan winger Stephan El Shaarawy and ex-Manchester City striker Edin Dzeko, who scored five times against the Reds during his stay across town from 2011 to 2015.

 Paulo Fonseca
Paulo Fonseca has been the Roma manager since 2019.

The first leg between United and Roma at Old Trafford kicks off at 20:00 BST on Thursday evening, with the deciding return leg to be played a week later at the iconic Stadio Olimpico.

In the other semi-final, Arsenal take on former manager Unai Emery and Villarreal. The final in Gdansk will be played on 26 May.

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