While it’s still early days in the group stage of the Champions League, Roma getting rousted by Real Madrid has left a bit of a sour taste in our collective mouths. It wasn’t so much that they lost to Madrid—we knew that was coming—but rather the manner in which they lost; getting spanked 3-0 without every really putting up a fight. I suppose it was good that Roma got the toughest match (away to Madrid) out of the way first, but with Plzen and CSKA Moscow drawing on Matchday One, Roma are firmly in last place in Group G, making tomorrow’s tilt rather important.
Fortunately for Roma, consecutive convincing victories once again has people rallying ‘round the flag. Propelled by a rather drastic change of tactics (the 4-3-3 was disbanded for the 4-2-3-1) Roma looks dangerous, organized and, most importantly, effective. Sure, things aren’t clicking on all cylinders yet, but by simply getting more of his best players on the pitch at the same time, Eusebio Di Francesco has seemingly unlocked the mystery to his talented team.
Roma v. Viktoria Plzen: October 2nd. 15:00 CET/3:00 EDT. Stadio Olimpico, Roma.
How exactly that mystery presents itself tomorrow against a relatively unknown opponent is anyone’s guess. We say relatively quite simply because we’ve seen this matchup before, two years ago in the (ugh) Europa League, where Roma beat their Czech counterparts 5-2 (agg.) over two matches. Of course, two matches two years ago in a second tier European competition doesn’t really mean much in the here and now, but it’s something.
Making matters worse, we can’t even really look to their domestic record for any insight. Over their past five league matches, Plzen has put up a win-loss-win-loss-win run of form, so lord only knows which of those teams will show up at the Olimpico tomorrow. And listen, I’m not going to bullshit you and pretend to know much about the Czech league, but let’s just say this: if we’ve learned one thing from Roma’s European campaigns over the past 15 years it’s to never underestimate an opponent, no matter how well known they may or may not be.
But enough about Plzen, what about Roma?
Despite how overwhelmingly Roma beat their two neighbors last week, I’m still hesitant to simply assume that EDF will continue on with the 4-2-3-1, but, assuming he does, who can we expect to start this match?
With Cengiz Ünder, Justin Kluivert, Nicolo Zaniolo and Bryan Cristante all playing bit roles or not playing at all against Lazio, we can safely assume at least one of those names will loom large on Tuesday. While the balance in EDFs 4-2-3-1 has perhaps been the most welcomed development, whatever success they’ve had in this new setup falls down to the stellar play of Daniele De Rossi and Steven Nzonzi, so don’t be shocked if Cristante starts on the bench once again.
The real lynchpin in EDF’s decision making, however, appears to be Alessandro Florenzi. If Ale starts at right wing once again, Ünder may not see the light of day until the second half, or perhaps even against Empoli, but if he assumes his traditional right back role then the door is most likely open for Ünder.
We’ll speculate on the lineups later, but my best guess is that we’ll see a carbon copy of the XI that so soundly decimated Lazio on Saturday, perhaps making way for the Ünders, Kluiverts and Marcanos in the second half.
Roma have the advantage in form and the advantage in location, and stand every chance to find themselves second to Real in Group G by the end of the evening.