As if the prospect of facing Lionel Messi, Luis Suarez, Gerard Pique, Jordi Alba and Ivan Rakitic weren’t enough in and of itself, Roma has suddenly been bit by the injury bug, potentially losing three key pieces ahead of the first leg of their Champions League quarterfinal matchup against Barcelona. Trips to the Camp Nou are never pleasant, but Roma will effectively be bringing a knife to a gun fight if these rumors hold true.
We discussed the continued absence of Cengiz Ünder late last week, but once again, if he was fit enough to not only play for Turkey, but to score a pretty spectacular goal in Tuesday’s draw with Montenegro, why is he suddenly in doubt for Wednesday’s trip to Barcelona? Even with the benefit of a day off yesterday, Ünder’s status remains uncertain as his wonky knee hasn’t quite healed fully.
In addition to Ünder’s knee, Roma are tracking the status of Lorenzo Pellegrini’s calf, a minor injury that kept the third Roman out of the squad list against Bologna yesterday. Like Ünder, Pellegrini suffered the injury while on international duty, but that’s the price you pay to get in shape for the World Cup...oh, right. Nevermind.
While those two injuries occured last week, the most worrying name on the list of Roma’s walking wounded is Radja Nainggolan, who limped off the pitch early in the first half of yesterday’s 1-1 draw with Bologna, clutching his thigh/hamstring area in the process. Nainggolan will reportedly undergo testing today and tomorrow at the club facilities, with the hope that Radja’s knock will prove more a bruise than a muscular strain.
Out of the three potential absentees, Nainggolan is obviously the most crucial piece in terms of combating the Barcelona threat, to the extent that any club is able to do so. Nainggolan’s engine and his brute strength on the ball will go a long way to breaking the chains in the Barcelona machine—swap that out for Gerson and Roma’s defensive rigidity takes a major hit.
While Ünder likely has a shot to at least make the bench, and could prove to be a viable threat off the bench should Roma make a match of this, the site of Nainggolan, legs wrapped and face wincing, should take a bite out of whatever confidence we have ahead of this match.
We’ll have a deeper look at the tactics of this match in the coming days, but suffice it to say, a healthy Nainggolan will go a long way in giving Roma a fighting chance. If they can stifle the midfield and at least give Edin Dzeko two or three genuine looks at the goal, an upset might be afoot.