Reprising their group stage rivalry with an intriguing quarter-final clash, Norwegian upstarts Bodo/Glimt and Serie A heavyweights Roma play out the first leg of their Europa Conference League tie on Thursday.
After a sensational 6-1 victory over the Giallorossi at Aspmyra Stadion last October, the hosts will now seek an advantage to take to the Eternal City next week.
Located within the Arctic Circle, this season Bodo/Glimt have belied their status as a modest club from Northern Norway to make it into their first-ever European quarter-final – and in captivating fashion.
After dropping into the Conference League, Den Gule Horde went unbeaten through their group in the autumn, and their 12-point tally proved sufficient to earn the runners-up spot behind a Roma side they memorably humbled on the third matchday.
The knockout round playoffs brought about more fearless slaying of the European establishment, as Kjetil Knutsen’s men brushed aside Celtic – winning both legs and progressing 5-1 on aggregate.
It may have taken the Norwegian champions extra time to seal success over Group D winners AZ Alkmaar in the last 16, but a 2-1 win in the first leg – when Ola Solbakken’s 91st-minute penalty provied decisive – further burnished their reputation as a force to be feared on home soil.
As they now prepare to welcome their Italian counterparts back to the world’s northernmost city – having since successfully defended their Eliteserien title – Glimt have won 11 of their 13 European home games since the turn of the century. That includes all eight in the Conference League, in which they have scored 21 goals and conceded just three.
Roma’s Tammy Abraham celebrates scoring their first goal on March 17, 2022© Reuters
When Glimt affirmed their credentials by holding Roma to a 2-2 draw in the Italian capital just a fortnight after their 6-1 success, questions began to surface about the longevity of Jose Mourinho’s stay at Stadio Olimpico.
Also faltering in domestic competition – knocked out of the Coppa Italia and slipping off the top-six pace in Serie A – the Giallorossi seemed set for another season of disappointment, but events in recent weeks see them tackle their quarter-final assignment in high spirits.
With star striker Tammy Abraham – the Conference League’s top scorer with seven strikes so far – rattling in goals on a regular basis, Roma are now a well-oiled machine.
Last weekend, they returned from the international break – before which they beat arch-rivals Lazio in the Derby della Capitale – and ran out 1-0 winners at Sampdoria, thanks to Henrikh Mkhitaryan’s first-half goal. Thereby extending their unbeaten run to 10 games – their best such streak in six years – Mourinho’s men have now won four of their last five and secured five clean sheets from their last seven.
Certainly, things seem to be coming together for the side sitting fifth in the Serie A standings, who beat Bodo/Glimt to top spot in the group stage by racking up 18 goals – the most of any team in the inaugural competition.
Roma then squeezed past Eredivisie outfit Vitesse in the last 16 – a 2-1 aggregate victory last month being sealed by Abraham’s late strike at the Olimpico – and will expect to now take one step closer to May’s final in Tirana, with a first European trophy since 1961 in their sights.