Although this will be Roma’s first match following the completion of the summer mercato, they will most likely not be at full strength. Chris Smalling’s debut is likely to be put off by another week due to a mild knee sprain, leaving the Giallorossi with Gianluca Mancini, Roger Ibañez, and Marash Kumbulla to shore up the central defense. As they host minnows Benevento (and former Giallorossi player Iago Falque), can they stretch their win streak to two and climb their way further up the table?
Keep An Eye On
Is This Marash’s Moment?
Marash Kumbulla’s signing was arguably the gem of Roma’s summer mercato, and by all accounts he’s impressed to date in a Giallorossi kit. Add in a string of starts for the Albanian national team during the break, and it certainly seems like October might be a golden month for the 20-year-old. Unfortunately, Roma’s other marquee defensive signing, Chris Smalling, looks to be out of the squad for this match against Benevento due to a mild ankle sprain. There’s a reason why Roma pushed to have four starting-caliber center-backs in the fold by the end of the summer mercato, and it is situations like these.
Roma vs. Benevento: October 18th. 20:45 CET/2:45 EDT. Stadio Olimpico, Roma.
Yet one can’t help but worry a little bit that losing the actual experience in Roma’s back line is going to cause problems. Smalling brings more than that, of course; he was arguably the best center-back in Italy last season. Nevertheless, a lineup of Mancini-Ibañez-Kumbulla is incredibly young without him. If Roma wants to find a place in the Champions League for next season, they’ll need Smalling back as soon as possible, but it’ll be intriguing to see how these young defenders, and specifically Kumbulla, respond over the course of a season when the defensive depth isn’t all there.
Borja For Mayor(Al)
Borja Mayoral hasn’t skirted controversy in his short time with the Giallorossi, commenting on the reasons why he left Real Madrid and putting both Luka Jovic and Zinedine Zidane under the microscope. Yet I found this quote far more interesting in that first interview as a Roma player:
Can you play alongside Edin Džeko?
“Sure. Why not? I know what sort of footballer Džeko is and he’s a different player to me. Why shouldn’t we be able to play together up front? Besides, having two strikers with different skill sets can come in very handy. I think we complement each other.”
I’m not expecting big things out of Mayoral this season, since I’m anticipating that Džeko will still be calling the shots offensively. Yet the idea of allowing Paulo Fonseca to tinker with his formations by putting two strikers up front is definitely intriguing, and may actually allow the Spanish striker some space to grow where other young forwards wilted. I doubt that we’ll see Mayoral start against Benevento, but as the biggest low-risk, high-reward transfer of the summer, it would be great if Roma could finally strike gold on a new striker. If he can play well with Džeko as the Bosnian moves closer and closer to retirement, all the better.
I don’t know about you, but I’m definitely hoping that Riccardo Calafiori gets a start sooner rather than later. Leonardo Spinazzola is nice and all, but in terms of long-term value and potential, it’s obvious even from his limited minutes to date that Calafiori can exceed Spinazzola’s ability. If Fonseca intends to bring him more and more into the team (which all rumors point to), a start against Benevento might be the best moment for that. I wouldn’t count on it, if only because Serie A managers are almost always terrified of starting young players when their managerial position is anything other than “we’ve just given you a lifetime contract”, but it would definitely make my week to see the Roman start in defense. At the very least he’ll give Lorenzo Pellegrini a local friend to play with at the Olimpico.