The Incentives For Serie A Sides Juventus And Roma To Progress In The UEFA Europa League

Today, the House of European Football in Nyon, Switzerland hosted the UEFA Europa League draw, with two Italian teams, Juventus and Roma, tuned in to discover their next opponent in the tournament’s Round of 16.

Juventus will battle Bundesliga side Freiburg, while Jose Mourinho’s men will take on La Liga’s Real Sociedad.

Both Serie A sides are strongly incentivized to progress in the competition and collect the rewards that come with hoisting Europe’s second most important piece of silverware.

On Thursday night, Juventus clinched a spot in the UEFA Europa League last 16 thanks to a 3-0 victory over Ligue 1 side FC Nantes.

At Stade de la Beaujoire, Argentine striker Angel Di Maria took the spotlight, recording a hat-trick that featured a showstopping left-footed curler just four minutes into the game.

A few minutes later, Di Maria nearly scored another classy goal with a back-heel shot, but his brilliant attempt was saved on the goal line by an FC Nantes defender’s handball. El Fideo, as he has always been known in the Argentine soccer community, stepped up to the penalty spot, converting from 12 yards and giving his side the double lead. He completed his personal hat-trick with a header in the second half.

“Di Maria is a real champion,” said Juventus head coach Massimiliano Allegri in a post-match interview to Sky Sport, expressing all his admiration for the 2022 World Cup champion. “He sees things that others don’t see.”

The Nyon draw has put Juventus up against German side Freiburg. Leg one, which will take place on March 9, will be the first international clash between the two clubs.

Later last night, Roma battled RB Salzburg at Stadio Olimpico, starting from a 1-0 aggregate in favor of the Austrian Football Bundesliga reigning champions. From the get-go, the Giallorossi showed incredible determination to come back from the one-goal deficit, setting the match tempo and scoring twice in the first half.

The most inspired player was probably wing-back Leonardo Spinazzola, whose pace proved simply overwhelming for the RB Salzburg defensive line: By taking advantage of his acceleration, the Italy international zoomed past his opponent on two occasions to then deliver pinpoint crosses that were pushed into the net by Andrea Belotti’s header and Paulo Dyabla’s left-footed volley for Roma’s first and second goal, respectively.

Head coach Jose Mourinho, who last year led Roma to winning the first-ever UEFA Europa Conference League edition, expressed very optimistic feelings about his side’s 2-0 victory and current form.

“It was a beautiful Roma side, who clinched an important result but also performed at all levels,” the Portuguese manager told Sky Sport after the game.

For the upcoming Round of 16 fixture, Roma have been drawn against Real Sociedad, who are currently enjoying remarkable form as they sit third in the La Liga table behind Spanish giants Barcelona and Real Madrid.

Both Juventus and Roma are motivated to chase the UEFA Europa League trophy, which alone grants over $15 million in prize money. Just as importantly, the cup winners earn direct access to next year’s UEFA Champions League, Europe’s flagship soccer competition and the most remunerative one.

Juventus, who have recently dropped to seventh in Serie A following a 15-point deduction, will unlikely bridge the 12-point gap that separates them from the UEFA Champions League zone. Meanwhile, Roma are in a fierce race against some of Italy’s most equipped sides – namely, Inter Milan, AC Milan, Lazio and Atalanta – to secure one of the three remaining UEFA Champions League spots.

Considering the high degree of competition that Juventus and Roma are facing domestically, both clubs will likely invest much of their energy in the UEFA Europa League, pursuing a prestigious international trophy and the benefits it entails.