In any match preview, player selection and formations tend to loom large; it’s just the nature of the beast. But those questions always seem more pressing when it comes to European play, particularly when an important Serie A fixture is waiting around the bend. Such was the case yesterday when Roma welcomed BSC Young Boys to the Stadio Olimpico for their Europa League Matchday Five fixture. With a crucial six-pointer against Sassuolo set for Sunday, all eyes were on Paulo Fonseca's team sheet yesterday: would he continue to lean on his second unit staff and rest his regulars or favor a more mixed and matched approach?
Admittedly, with Roma already qualified for the Round of 32, those lineup concerns weren't quite as taxing as they usually are, but we were waiting for the lineup card with baited breath.
In the end, Fonseca opted for a slightly younger lineup, giving valuable match minutes to Gonzalo Villar, Borja Mayoral, Carles Pérez and Riccardo Calafiori. And it worked like gangbusters, as each of these players were instrumental in Roma's 3-1 win yesterday.
The majority of Roma's lowest-rated players yesterday were substitutes, so, once again, it's all halos.
We'll start with the undoubted star of the show: Riccardo Calafiori, Roma's 18-year-old star full-back in the making. By now, you've undoubtedly seen his 59th minute screamer (multiple times, no doubt) but Calafiori turned in 90 awfully impressive minutes.
In addition to his goal, Calafiori attempted a match-high five shots, putting two on target, took 76 touches, completed four dribbles, four tackles and three interceptions. He also hit on one of two long balls while winning eight of twelve ground duels.
His goal rightly earned most of the plaudits, but Calafiori was fantastic yesterday, contributing in all phases of the game. And it was only his third-ever appearance in a Roma shirt.
Bright days are ahead, my friends.
Mayoral continued to make mince meat of Europa League competition yesterday, pouncing on Pedro's rebounded shot to score his third goal in the competition and fourth overall. In addition to his goal, Mayoral put both of his shots on target, chipped in two key passes, completed two dribbles, drew two fouls and was a perfect three-for-three on long-ball attempts.
Slowly but surely, we're getting glimpses of what Mayoral can do and if he can translate these Europa League performances into the league, he'll add an interesting new wrinkle to Roma's attack.
A bit of a forgotten figure over the past few weeks, Pérez was Roma's chief creator last night, setting up four shots in 90 minutes while completing 85% of his passes. Pérez also managed three shots and three dribbles, showing particularly impressive close control in the buildup before Mayoral's goal.
In fact, were it not for his composure at the edge of the box, there would have been no Pedro shot, no rebound and no Mayoral goal. It wasn't a flawless performance from Pérez, as he only put one of his three shots on target and took the goose egg on crosses (0-7), but it was an encouraging performance from a kid who has been reduced to a bit role over the past month.
Edin Dzeko was great in his 30 minute cameo yesterday while Juan Jesus put in a sneakily solid shift, but we'll save our last halo for the recently returned Diawara. He may be bound for the Premiership before long, but Diawara flashed the same level of composure and precision that has made him such a hot commodity over the past few years.
In 90 minutes against Young Boys, Diawara took 85 touches, completed 90% of his passes, set up one shot, pulled off two dribbles, drew two fouls, completed two tackles, picked off two passes and completed four of seven long-ball attempts.
It's the same sort of subdued but brilliant performance we've come to expect from Diawara. He may be a tad too slow or passive for some, but his passing and positioning were spot on yesterday and enabled Roma to control the match.
So, how did we do? Did we miss any halos? Were there any real sinners in this victory?