Back when Roma was vying with Juventus to become the first team to win ten Coppa Italia titles, this tournament had added juice in the hearts and minds of Roma fans. However, with their victory over Lazio in May 2015, J became the first club to reach that plateau, adding another one for good measure last season. All of which places Roma and their fans in an odd plane of existence. The rush of pride that would have accompanied being the first to ten has vanished, yet Roma’s trophy drought soldiers on unabated. Conundrum.
So, you tell me-what is your level of interest in tomorrow’s Coppa Italia fixture against Sampdoria? Excitement at possible lineup tweaks? Apprehensive that a ACL might be torn asunder? Plain indifference?
Roma v. Sampdoria: January 19th. 21:00 CET/3:00 EST. Stadio Olimpico.
Despite that ambiguity and your possible ambivalence, there are some unique twists to this fixture, namely it marks Luciano Spalletti’s first foray into the Coppa Italia since his last stint with Roma. Remember, it was under Rudi Garcia’s impeccable reign that Roma crashed out against Spezia in December of 2015, perhaps the most embarrassing moment of a forgettable year for Ol’ Rudi.
Spalletti, you may recall, has two Coppa Italia titles to his credit, so let’s take a quick look at how he’ll set Roma on the path towards success, or as we used to call it, the quest for ten.
Do or Do Not. There is No Try.
Between their perpetual hunt of Juventus and their on-going Europa League campaign, Roma’s plate is quite full, so there is every chance that the Coppa will fall by the wayside, but should it?
With Roma’s regular starters taxed to the limit, this might be a golden chance for Spalletti to infuse some fresh blood into his attack, or simply to experiment with some new tactical wrinkles. Leandro Paredes has returned from an ankle injury and is in dire need of serious match minutes, while Gerson would seem to be a viable candidate for some Coppa action, especially since Roma’s Europa League opponents will get tougher the further they advance, decreasing the likelihood that he’ll see the pitch.
So from that angle, this could be a wonderful opportunity to test some of Roma’s spare parts. But let’s be honest, this competition has lost its luster under the best of circumstances, but with their grasp on second place in the league far from certain, and with a legitimate shot at a Europa League title on the line, the Coppa Italia will inevitably be neglected.
That’s not to say Roma won’t commit, but with a jam packed schedule coming up—nine matches between now and the end of February—can you see Radja Nainggolan going the full 90 against Sampdoria tomorrow? Yeah, me neither.
But Luciano Spalletti has a responsibility to prepare his club for each and every match, regardless of the competition or opponent, and part of that responsibility, one which spills over to their more glamorous competitions, is to ensure that all his regulars are match fit and prepared to play at a moment’s notice.
The Coppa Italia represents a chance for players like Paredes, Gerson, Alisson, Thomas Vermaelen and maybe even Mario Rui to get some run. It would also be an ideal time to get Francesco Totti up to speed for the stretch run.
In the early stages, Roma at 7/8ths should be enough to topple Sampdoria, so while Spalletti shouldn’t exactly conflate this match with the looming Villarreal fixtures, he must see it as an opportunity to simultaneously tinker and advance. It’s a tough concoction to master, one which befuddled Roma under Rudi Garcia, but progress in the Coppa Italia is beneficial to the club’s overall health.
My guess is we see Lovely Leo, Alisson and Totti get some minutes tomorrow, with the rest of the XI being some amalgam of the usual 12 to 13 players we normally see. What do you think? Should Roma coast or go for it?