Rejoice, dear friends. The international break is over! Over I tell you! And what’s more, with both Roma teams playing tomorrow at practically the same time, it’s a double whammy of red and yellow anxiety. As we spent the morning discussing the ragazze, we’ll shift our focus to the ragazzi—Italian can be a very confusing language.
When we last left Roma, they were busy whalloping Sampdoria at the Olimpico. Led by a brace from Stephan El Shaarawy (who might be our best attacking player, fyi), Eusebio Di Francesco’s side treated us to an offensive display we hadn’t seen in months. With goals from Juan Jesus and Patrik Schick to boot, EDF’s attack was as varied and as effective as we’ve seen over the past year or so, while the defense was well organized and restricted Sampdoria’s attack for much of the match.
Udinese v. Roma: November 24th. 15:00 CET/9:00 EST. Stadio Friuli, Udine.
Despite that last good impression, one simply never knows how a team will react after the international break. Certainly Roma ended on a high note, equalling their goal haul from the prior three matches, and while the two week break afforded some players to mend (more on that in a second), it may have halted whatever positive momentum they were building.
Let’s hearken back to the last international break in late October, which, uh, didn’t go so well. Fresh off four straight victories, a span in which they outscored opponents 14-1, Roma had a cakewalk awaiting them after the break, a home match against lowly SPAL 2013. And rather than pushing that streak to five straight wins, Roma wet the bed in an embarrassing 2-0 loss—they suffered a similar fate after the late summer break as well, falling to Benevento 2-1.
Given that recent history, El Shaarawy’s brace and the confidence that came with it could very well disappear tomorrow at Udine, particularly when you consider how short-handed Roma will be.
As we’ve been saying for weeks (if not months) now, Diego Perotti is a member of this team in name only, but the continued absence of Daniele De Rossi and the new knock to Kostas Manolas are quite concerning. In DDR’s absence, we’ll most likely see the Steven Nzonzi and Bryan Cristante pairing, which is fine on the surface but Cristante isn’t exactly brimming with confidence at the moment.
At the back, we simply have to hope EDF keeps Ivan Marcano’s ass firmly planted on the bench and continues with the Juan Jesus-Federico Fazio duo we’ve seen intermittently this season. Manolas was the subject of much discussion this week, particularly as it relates to the somewhat intertwined fates of his release clause and the future of Juventus defender Daniele Rugani. Win, lose or draw, by virtue of his absence we may get a glimpse of his true worth to this Roma side.
We’ll have more on the lineups and the Xs and Os later today, but while Udinese is always a tough fixture, if Roma don’t pull any punches, the combination of El Shaarawy, Edin Dzeko and Lorenzo Pellegrini should be enough to put the Zebras on their heels.
I feel like a broken record at this point, but Roma needs this one tomorrow. A win, along with perhaps a draw in the Lazio-AC Milan fixture, would put the Giallorossi right back in the thick of the Champions League hunt for next season.
Roma has plenty of time to make a fight for the top four, but a slip up tomorrow will set them back, particularly if Atalanta and Sassuolo forge ahead.