There’s nothing quite like the international break to wash away our collective memories. That awkward two week sojourn into meaningless friendlies (sorry, Nations League, I was on board, but yeah, didn’t do it for me) has a tendency to make one forget about all the trials and travails ones team endured to start the season. For Roma, those 14 days sans Serie A nearly made us forget about Roma’s clunker against AC Milan before the break, one in which they were outshot 26-6 and done in at the death by Patrick Cutrone.
And is custom, the break has taken its toll on several key players, as Daniele De Rossi, Alessandro Florenzi and Diego Perotti were all listed as questionable. While they have fortunately recovered for tomorrow’s encounter with Chievo, the same cannot be said for Javier Pastore; El Flaco is suffering from the always elusive “muscular problems” and has not been included in this week’s squad list.
Now, given Pastore’s rough start to the season, EDF won’t exactly be at a loss as they take on the Flying Donkeys at the Olimpico. Despite his lovely goal against Atalanta, the former PSG man has struggled thus far in his return to Serie A, so perhaps a week watching from the stands will do him some good.
In his place, look for Di Francesco to lean on Stephan El Shaarawy on the left flank, opposite last season’s sensation Cengiz Ünder, with Edin Dzeko nestled in between of course. With Florenzi making the cut, the defense will remain in tact, but given De Rossi’s questionable fitness, Steven Nzonzi may make the start from minute one, putting the French veteran in between Roma’s two young guns, Lorenzo Pellegrini and Bryan Cristante.
It’s a bit unnerving after so many years watching De Rossi, Kevin Strootman and Radja Nainggolan running the show, but Roma’s midfield is suddenly the biggest point of uncertainty. Given the youth of Pellegrini and Cristante, both of whom are looking to recapture recent breakout seasons, consistency was always going to haunt Roma’s midfield, but through the season’s first three matches, they have been rather pedestrian. Consistency is great in the long run, but if these two can’t begin to show their quality, EDF’s midfield is in a world of trouble.
On paper, a home match against Chievo seems like the perfect salve for Roma’s wounds, but that platitude has seldom brought Roma solace, let alone three points.