Well, this is it. After 37 weeks, Roma's frantic and frustrating, exhilarating and exhausting, stupid and stupendous season comes to an end when they welcome 11th place Palermo to the Olimpico on Sunday afternoon. For Roma it's a chance to test out the kids, for Palermo it's the chance to finish level on points with storied but troubled AC Milan. So, as you can see, there's a lot at stake tomorrow.
So, why should you watch?
Well, you may have noticed this kid with the afro on the bench all season. Some say he's good, some (me) say that he's the Turkish Toni Kroos, some even say that he might play tomorrow. Either way, we haven't seen much of Salih Uçan this season and if he doesn't even see the pitch in tomorrow's meaningless match, then, well, I don't know where we go from there.
The other outlier rests at the other end of the career spectrum. Although he's made the squad list a few times this season, Federico Balzaretti hasn't actually played since November of 2013, and with his career likely coming to an end, what better sendoff that an appearance against the club with which he truly cut his teeth, the mighty Rosanero--in a match lacking any true storylines that is sure to at least tug at your heart strings.
Even though this is the 38th and final week of an arduous season, now is not the time for recaps, so let's shine a light on Roma's least used reserves and why they should get some run against The Pink-Blacks.
It was nearly two months to the day that we first saw Uçan make his real debut against Cesena in Roma's 1-0 victory in late March. As we discussed shortly thereafter, it wasn't half bad. Uçan moved around the pitch with relative ease and was involved in the offense to the tune of 45 touches in 67 minutes, looking more effective on the defensive side of the ball than with it at his feet, clearing three balls, picking off three passes and winning 60% of his aerial duels.
We literally cannot draw any conclusions about his debut season in Rome, other than to say, it probably should have taken place somewhere other than the Eternal City, but you just can't help but get excited when you see this kid play; there is just something about the way he glides on the pitch that induces visions of grandeur.
If anyone should go the full 90 tomorrow, it's him. Whether that happens or not is anyone's guess
Big Walt's latest Argentine gamble is even younger than Uçan but managed to earn Rudi Garcia's trust to a (relatively) greater extent this season, garnering 10 appearance across all competitions this season. Paredes, our sixth rated Roma prospect this season, earned three starts in the heart of the midfield (two attacking, one holding) and seven substitute appearances, so his book is a bit longer than Uçan's.
Undoubtedly, the highlight of Paredes' season was his match winning goal against Cagliari back in early February. As you can see, Paredes did a masterful job of settling Daniele Verde's (remember him) wild cross, putting enough English on it to beat the Cagliari keeper at the far post. Look closely and you'll also see Antonio Sanabria in that clip...Nobody's quite sure what got into Rudi that day.
His vision and ability to play with both feet may very well make him the man that usurps Miralem Pjanic someday in the distant future, but for now, he's done enough to earn a full cap in a meaningless match
We'll have more to say about the €22m man soon enough, but suffice it to say, he's had a strange season. From the dizzying highs of his Champions League debut against CSKA Moscow and his heart pounding derby strike, to the crushing lows of, well, of nearly all of 2015, it's been an up and down season for Iturbe.
However, when you throw that kind of cash down for a kid, you not only give him second chances, you give him seventh chances. Iturbe must...must...be a key figure for Roma in 2015-2016 if they're to have any chance of success, domestically and continentally. Throw him out there tomorrow with kids even less experienced than him and watch him take the lead. Give him the ball, get out of his way and get on the end of his crosses and we might see a flash of the skills that led Luca Toni to compare him to Franck Ribery.
Whatever he may prove to be, he needs to play, so it would make sense to let the kid end the season on a high note, wouldn't it?
Beyond those three, we can probably add the aforementioned Sanabria and Verde, while for my money I hope we see the last of Seydou Doumbia and Victor Ibarbo in Roma shirts.
After this, it's on to silly season, which is sure to be filled with massive amounts of turnover for our beloved stability-challenged club.