When the Serie A calendar was released, a reunion of sorts was expected for this Sunday in Genoa. After all, former Roma boss Eusebio Di Francesco was hired this summer to replace Marco Giampaolo as Sampdoria manager. There will still be a Roma reunion this weekend, just not the one we expected due to EDF being canned after a horrid start—his replacement, Claudio Ranieri.
The Tinkerman will take to the Samp dugout for the first time this weekend against the Giallorossi. As you may recall, not too long ago, it was Ranieri who replaced EDF at Trigoria. All things considered, Ranieri was the natural replacement considering his recent history: Ranieri managed to right a sinking ship in the capital last spring and now will look to work his magic to save Samp from the unthinkable: relegation.
Sampdoria vs Roma: October 20th, 15:00 CET/9:00 EDT. Stadio Luigi Ferraris, Genoa.
Fonseca expects a number of factors to make this a difficult affair for Roma; Ranieri included.
“I expect a difficult game, in the last ten away games against Sampdoria Roma have won only two. So it’s a complicated game. There was also the change of coach, which leads them to a positive reaction from the team, there is also the weather issue - all factors that make the challenge difficult, but we are ready.”
As Samp welcome a new manager, Roma will be without its own for this one. Fonseca will be serving a one match ban for his post-match tirade against Cagliari. In his pre-match presser he didn’t seem too concerned about not being on the bench.
“There can be no direct contact with the players. The difference is that I’ll talk to the team at the hotel, while we usually do that at the stadium. There I’ll trust Nuno Campos to look after the side. I’ve worked with him since the beginning of my career; there is maximum trust and maximum understanding – we don’t even need to talk to understand each other, because he understands what is happening on the pitch.”
With Sampdoria’s current plight in mind, Ranieri won’t be looking to do his favorite club any favors. The Blucerchiati find themselves in dead last with three points after seven matches under EDF’s guidance. Their league worst -12 goal differential epitomizes just how bad they’ve been. With that in mind, Ranieri will be looking to tighten up a leaky defense. Fonseca expects that approach to condition the way the game plays out.
“Ranieri is a great manager – he’s very skilled. Having taken over a struggling team, he’ll look to give the team some defensive stability. That’s how it works – if a team can’t defend properly, it can’t win games, especially in a period when they’re lacking in confidence. I’m expecting a difficult encounter, against a compact side who will sit back and look to hit us on the counter. We’ll have to make sure we nullify that approach. It’ll be a hard fought match at certain points and the initiative will most likely be with us.”
Conversely, Roma will look to revive an offense that has sputtered in recent weeks, which may be difficult considering the current injury situation. The Giallorossi will again be without Lorenzo Pellegrini and Davide Zappacosta, while Amadou Diawara was added to that list before the international break. In addition to those three, Cengiz Ünder and Henrik Mkhitaryan lost the race against the clock to return from their own ailments. In a bit of good news, Diego Perotti will be fit for the first time this season while Edin Dzeko won’t miss any matches due to his broken cheekbone. Both are unlikely to start, though.
Fonseca will again have to deal with these injury limitations when cobbling together his starting XI. The limited numbers on the wings make it likely that Alessandro Florenzi will start on the right wing, opposite Justin Kluivert, pushing Nicolò Zaniolo central, likely behind Nikola Kalinic, while Gianluca Mancini, Chris Smalling, Aleksandar Kolarov and Leonardo Spinazzola look set to start in defense.
*This game is currently under threat of postponement due to forecasted heavy rain in Genoa for Sunday. Keep an eye out for any weather related updates prior to scheduled kickoff.