One of the most important facets of Paulo Fonseca’s time in Rome to date has been his ability to win matches with a depleted squad. Roma’s 3-1 victory over SPAL on Sunday was achieved without Chris Smalling, Gianluca Mancini, Bryan Cristante, Davide Zappacosta, Justin Kluivert, Javier Pastore, Davide Santon, and Antonio Mirante, and despite all of those missing players, Roma got the job done and beat the bottom-feeder club with a conviction that hasn’t always been found by the Giallorossi. With Chris Smalling and Mancini now back in the fold, Roma will have two of their most in-form players this season for their Friday match against Fiorentina.
Although the talk of Serie A this season has undoubtedly been Napoli’s repeated misfires, Fiorentina’s slide to the bottom half of the table has been pretty surprising too. Fiorentina didn’t make the European competitions last season, it’s true. Yet considering the amount of exciting young talent wearing La Viola, including Federico Chiesa, Gaetano Castrovilli, and Nikola Milenkovic, I’m certainly surprised that they have a -4 goal differential and are only 4 points clear of the relegation zone.
Fiorentina vs. Roma: December 20th. 20:45 CET/2:45 EST. Artemio Franchi, Firenze.
Fiorentina’s poor form this season doesn’t mean that tomorrow’s match should be penciled in as an easy win for Roma, even a Fonseca-led Roma that seems to avoid playing down to its competition. Last Sunday did see Vincenzo Montella’s side draw 1-1 against league-topping Inter, and the sheer potential in their attacking corps should translate to wins sooner rather than later. If Dusan Vlahovic, Chiesa (if he plays), or even Castrovilli is given too much of an opening by Roma’s defense, this could turn into quite an interesting match.
Heading into the match, Paulo Fonseca was naturally asked primarily about Roma’s crop of injured players and if they might be available against Fiorentina. While he declared that Kluivert isn’t ready for action yet, both Chris Smalling and Leonardo Spinazzola look to be options for Fonseca in the back. However, Fonseca noted that “Just like all the players — they’re an option. All I think about is Roma. Roma is most important. I understand this type of situation but I have to think about what’s best for Roma.” You have to assume Smalling is definitely getting the starting nod, but a statement like this from Fonseca, when combined with rumors of Fonseca and Petrachi’s unhappiness with the side after their draw with Wolfsberger, is certainly sending a message to his squad. The goal for the squad this season is without a doubt a Champions League place; if you’re not contributing to that goal, you’re not going to get minutes.
Roma enters this match three points clear of fifth-placed Cagliari and four points behind third-placed Lazio. A win for Roma will further cement her place in the Champions League spots for next season, and may enable her to displace Lazio in third place sooner rather than later. That’d be nice, wouldn’t it?