Last week’s much anticipated season opener against Torino was oh so quintessentially Roma; oodles of hype being met with large swaths of stagnant play rescued by one moment of brilliance nearly at the death. Thanks to a splash of inspiration from Justin Kluivert, Edin Dzeko was able to give Roma three hard earned points with his stunning left footed volley. It wasn’t exactly the way they drew it up, but Roma opened up their new campaign on a positive note.
Week two brings with it a bit of a delay, as Roma and Atlanta close out round two with always unique Monday night fixture. As one would expect with these two sides, there are storylines aplenty, but it just wouldn’t be Roma if everything was copasetic.
We don’t usually post squad lists in our match previews, but just in case you spent your Sunday tilling the fields, you missed a major development earlier today: the sale of Kevin Strootman. While the final figures have yet to be published, it is believed that Roma will reap at least €25 million for the 28-year-old midfielder, who will reunite with Rudi Garcia at Marseilles.
However, as you can see, Roma’s own newcomer, Steven Nzonzi, has ostensibly taken his place on the squad list, though we obviously have no idea how much he’ll feature this week, if at all.
Roma v. Atalanta: August 27th, 20:30 CET/2:30 EDT. Stadio Olimpico, Roma.
Speaking of which...given all the overturn this summer, all eyes will be on Eusebio Di Francesco’s lineup selections and personnel rotation. Last week against Torino, he went with a largely familiar starting eleven, with Javier Pastore being the lone new face in the lineup. Despite that familiarity, Roma’s attack was punchless for large chunks of the match and didn’t really come to life until Bryan Cristante and Kluivert were subbed on for Pastore and Cengiz Ünder, respectively.
While it was only one match, and we shouldn’t draw season long conclusion, Kluivert and Cristante were so instrumental last week, it wouldn’t be a stretch to envision one or both of them starting tomorrow. With Ünder struggling last week and El Shaarawy completely ineffective, Kluivert seems a lock for an uptick on his 20 minutes of action last week, while Cristante may start against his former team by default; with Strootman gone and Nzonzi not yet ready, the Canuck may have no choice but to be ready for 90 minutes on Monday night.
In terms of what they’ll be up against tomorrow, the Atlanta story is all about Alejandro Gomez. Papu was up to his old tricks last week against Frosinone, bagging a brace to down the newly promoted side in a 4-0 laugher. The Goddesses may not run as deep as they once did, particularly not without Cristante, but Gomez is talented enough to swing a match on his own and has made meals of Roma defenses in the past, scoring four goals in 13 appearances. With Kostas Manolas and Federico Fazio not at their best last week, Papu should look as dangerous as ever on Monday night.
Selling Kevin Strootman was certainly an unexpected development, but Roma’s summer transfer ambition was about one thing: depth, a trait that will be tested straight away. Removing that one link from the chain ratchets up the pressure on Cristante, Lorenzo Pellegrini and the new guy, Nzonzi, each of whom will now be jockeying for Strootman’s minutes.
On paper, Roma has more than enough depth to weather this temporary transition, but Papu Gomez is a killer of complacency and can spoil Roma’s opener in an instant. Roma must be sharp tomorrow, any wasted chances could lead to lost points, something they can ill afford with Juventus and Napoli starting off two for two.