Roma's thrilling 4-0 victory over Virtus Entella in the Coppa Italia was noteworthy for many reasons. Not only was this their first ever meeting, and Roma’s first match since the holiday break, but it marked a new start of sorts for Eusebio Di Francesco's side. Down a few faces thanks to injury, EDF took the opportunity to tinker with his lineup more than usual. Granted, he had more leeway to do so given the gulf in talent between the two sides, but his changes yielded more attacking and excitement than we've seen in weeks.
With Daniele De Rossi and Steven Nzonzi each shelved with injuries to their lower extremities, EDF dialed up the tinker-meter to 11. By dropping Lorenzo Pellegrini back into Nzonzi's spot and putting Javier Pastore back in the hole behind Patrik Schick, Roma's attack was hitting on all cylinders, with Schick perhaps receiving the biggest octane boost. With two goals and three key passes, Schick was everything we'd hoped for when Roma broke the bank for him two summers ago—he was quick, creative and decisive.
Roma vs. Torino: January, 19th. 15:00 CET/9:00 EST. Stadio Olimpico, Roma.
But Entella and ninth place Torino are two different animals entirely. So while it was reassuring to see Roma return to form, it is fair to question to what extent that same fervor will show up on Saturday. However, before we discuss that, a look back at the first fixture.
August 19, 2018: Torino 0, Roma 1
Little did we know it at the time, but this match, the season's first, was a harbinger of things to come. While Roma has since had more prolific performances, even when dropping points, this particular afternoon in Torino really seemed to set the tone for the season: wasted chances, near misses and mounting frustration. With three shots clanging off the woodwork and the clock winding down...err, winding up towards the 90 minute mark, Roma waited till the death before showing signs of life, but thanks to a sensational assist from Justin Kluivert, and an equally impressive finish from Edin Dzeko, Roma walked away winners in week one.
Dzeko was scoring goals and Roma was winning, what could possibly go wrong!?
Does Roma Still Have the Entella Touch?
Roma beating up on poor little Entella is a bit like Duke rolling over some community college team on a random Wednesday; you don't get a ton of praise because you were supposed to win that match—Zion dunking over some marching band kid in Nikes doesn't get you extra points. However, that doesn't mean Roma's rollicking 4-0 win was without merit or lacking implications for the second half of the season.
With Monchi frantically searching for reinforcements in midfield and defense, EDF threw a new wrinkle into Roma's playbook by starting Pellegrini and Bryan Cristante in the double pivot with Pastore serving as the de facto #10. While Pellegrini has occupied that role before, having Pastore back in action, not to mention holding the Zaniolo card in his pocket, gives Di Francesco adequate cover while his veteran midfielders continue to mend. And we haven't even mentioned the possibility of EDF rolling with Cristante, Pellegrini and Zaniolo simultaneously, a lovely little trick he can deploy if he's not feeling El Flaco on Saturday.
Putting three of Italy's best and brightest youngsters on the pitch at once could be the key to Roma reversing course in the second half, and by experimenting with that trio in a relatively benign match, Di Francesco has yet another option to combat any creeping complacency in his side.
At the back, things probably won't change much from the usual fare, and while Kostas Manolas and friends have suffered through some bouts of inconsistency, they should have enough wherewithal to tame the Toros.
With only 27 goals forced through their first 19 matches, Torino aren't exactly lighting the league on fire, having failed to score in 26% of their matches, but a team with Andrea Belotti on the field is always one to be reckoned with, and with three goals and an assist in his last seven matches, this rooster has been...crowing...That can't be right, is it?
Even stranger, despite their troubles in attack and their mediocre spot on the table, Torino has been quite impressive on the road. With 14 points through 10 matches, Torino have the fourth most away points thus far...and, if that weren't bad enough, two of Belotti's three goals against Roma have come at the Olimpico...Roma's Olimpico.
All of which is to say, the Roma Richter Scale could be going haywire come the 85th minute on Saturday. Torino’s road record, Belotti's history against the Giallorossi and Roma's penchant for buckling at the worst moments could spell disaster on Saturday.
If, however, Roma retains that Entella touch, this could be the beginning of a big turnaround.