“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, …”
That famous Charles Dickens line can be applied quite well to Roma’s current situation. The work put in this season under first year manager Paulo Fonseca has been most mostly positive, making many believe that the best of times are still to come. Of course, this being Roma, the worst of times are always lurking—take Nicolo Zaniolo’s recent knee injury for example.
Yet, Roma has soldiered on and won consecutive matches since its young talisman went down in a heap on the Olimpico turf. Thanks to the wisdom of Fonseca in guiding his side through a season long injury crisis, the Lupi are still in position to achieve all of their stated preseason objectives.
Of course, the financial ramifications of the foolishness of Monchi’s reign still hang over the club like a dark storm cloud. We also remain incredulous at recent events on the transfer market with Inter. Yet, belief that the best of times are still on the horizon remains strong, thanks to Fonseca Football, Petrachi’s hard line negotiation tactics, and the reportedly imminent Friedkin group take over. Oh, what a time to be a Romanista!
On the pitch, Fonseca’s injury depleted side has a golden opportunity to take a crucial step in ushering in the best of times. Roma head to Turin to face Juventus in the Coppa Italia quarterfinals before hosting Lazio in a crucial derby encounter.
Juventus vs. Roma: January 22nd, 20:45CET/14:45EST. Allianz Stadium, Turin.
Winning at the Allianz Stadium would allow Fonseca’s Roma to achieve its first sporting objective of the season: a deep Coppa run. Something that is easier said than done, but, the Giallorossi will be buoyed by a busy week that has seen them get back to their winning ways on the road against Parma and Genoa. Two crucial victories after a rough start to 2020 at the Olimpico.
This match comes just ten days after their most recent encounter with Juve at the Olimpico. In that one, the visitors took advantage of key Giallorossi mistakes. Those errors saw the Bianconeri jump out to a 2-0 lead in the first ten minutes—effectively killing off the match.
In a match that was marred by the ACL injuries of Merih Demiral and Nicolò Zaniolo, the Giallorossi fought hard late in the second half to make a game of it. Roma ripped off 22 total shots (six on target) and won 13 corner kicks, but by the time the Giallorossi had a foothold in the match, it was too little too late. Juve prevailed 2-1 and took the three points back to Turin.
If Roma is to beat Juventus this time around, it will have to play a mistake free match from the jump. Winning at the Allianz Stadium is a daunting enough task and unforced errors similar to those at the Olimpico would make it near impossible. Juventus is just too good to hand goals to—Fonseca will have to have his side ready, both mentally and physically.
The Giallorossi will again be shorthanded in attack through injury and Edin Dzeko’s cup suspension. So, much like last week’s Round of 16 victory, when Lorenzo Pellegrini stepped up with a brace in the big Bosnian’s absence, a similar performance from someone will be needed. The speed on the wings of Justin Kluivert and Cengiz Ünder might be just what the doctor ordered if Roma are to break a stout Juve defense.
Meanwhile, Cristiano Ronaldo sat out Juve’s 4-0 Round of 16 beat down of Udinese, but he has been in scintillating form in the league. Ronaldo has scored in 7 straight in Serie A, accounting for 11 goals. It’ll be up to the Hadrian’s Wall combination of Smalling and Mancini to stop Ronaldo, Dybala, and whoever else Maurizio Sarri throws at Pau Lopez’s goal.
It won’t be easy, but if Roma can find a way in this one, they will move one step closer to the best of times—the first trophy of the American era. That first trophy could be a Coppa Italia if Fonseca can guide his side past the biggest obstacle of the tournament: Juventus away. Let the epoch of belief begin.