Considering Roma’s history of getting shunted from far-off city to far-off city during Europa League, it’s probably a relief for Paulo Fonseca and his team that their match tomorrow is only in Bern. In non-COVID times, I’d recommend that the guys enjoy at least a little time in the city; when I visited Switzerland in 2019, it was one of my favorite stops.
Alas, the Giallorossi aren’t going to Bern to gawk at expensive watches or go to the Zentrum Paul Klee. They’re going to Bern to play BSC Young Boys, a football club’s name that I will never understand. Why not call yourself Bern FC, a name that inspires fewer questions! Regardless of the questionable name for Bern’s football club, tomorrow’s match is the first for Roma in this year’s installment of the Europa League. With them in Group A, if you’ve forgotten, are BSC Young Boys, CFR 1907 Cluj, and PFC CSKA-Sofia, a veritable who’s who of teams I don’t remember. Which brings us to our first thing to watch for in tomorrow’s match!
BSC Young Boys vs. Roma: October 22nd. 18:55 CET/12:55 EDT. Stadion Wankdorf, Bern
What To Watch For
Rotation, Rotation, Rotation
To put it simply, Roma is not playing any club remotely close to her stature in the Europa League group stage. The transfer fee the Giallorossi paid for Patrik Schick is probably enough to buy one of these clubs’ entire squad. Given that, it makes sense for Paulo Fonseca to do some heavy rotation while the Europa League matches are (or at least should be) gimmes. In the pre-match presser, Fonseca said he was planning on at least five or six switches from the usual starting XI, so expect the more experienced members of the squad like Edin Džeko, Henrikh Mkhitaryan, and others to get a rest.
As I said already, this game is supposed to be a freebie, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t interesting things to look forward to, particularly whether any of the younger Giallorossi players can make a case for increased play time. Gonzalo Villar and Borja Mayoral spring to mind as two players who should seize this moment and try to grind BSC into a fine paste. It would also be great to see Pau Lopez keep a clean sheet against even a small side like YB; that is, if Antonio Mirante (who’s rumored to be in line for a contract renewal, of all things) doesn’t get the nod.
Carles Pérez, Roma’s Next Big Thing?
Carles Pérez’s 89th-minute-stunner against Benevento is still hitting the back of the net in my mind. That goal definitely brought the Spanish winger a lot of attention from the media over the past couple of days, and assuming that Fonseca hands Pérez the start against YB, it will definitely be interesting to see if Pérez can turn a end-of-the-game stunner into the beginning of some good form. He’s shown that he has the talent to make an impact for Roma; now he has to show that he’ll seize a chance when it’s handed to him.
There’s no question that Pérez is going to have some stiff competition at the attacking-midfielder role this season, at least in matches that carry more weight. Pedro and Henrikh Mkhitaryan (who were crucial to Roma’s win against Benevento, by the by) are battle-hardened champions who bring a lot to the table for the Giallorossi night in and night out. For Pérez to prove to Roma that he’s worth his transfer fee, he needs to force his way into the starting eleven. The only way I can see him doing that (barring injuries to either Mkhitaryan or Pedro) is by getting into torrid form. If he can do that, he might be a long-term partner for Nicolo Zaniolo. If he can’t, well, we all remember what happened to Justin Kluivert, right?
Can Roma Bring The Benevento Energy to Switzerland?
If there’s been one primary frustration of watching Roma for the past decade, it’s been that the Giallorossi play down to their competition far too often. This issue has been lessened since the arrival of Paulo Fonseca, thankfully, but it’s still a problem for a club with aspirations like Roma’s to have supporters who feel uneasy when an “easy match” is on the horizon. It would be fantastic to see this pattern of playing down to their weaker opponent disappear with the arrival of The Friedkin Group, though I doubt that a change in who’s paying salaries is going to cause the mentality shift that’s needed.
Nevertheless, one has to hope that the Giallorossi can take the energy from their 5-2 thrashing of Benevento to this first Europa League match. If they’re able to record a statement win, even while employing player rotation, maybe we can all start crossing our fingers about getting to the Europa League Finals this time around. Wouldn’t that be nice?