With the Coronavirus running rampant in the northern provinces of the peninsula, normal life in Italy has effectively been halted. Schools, churches, offices, movie theaters, and countless other locales have been closed to slow the spread of the world’s latest epidemic.
Nothing has been spared, not even Italy’s favorite pastime. Italian citizens are in need of a distraction and some sense of normalcy. However, with the Coronavirus posing such a new and unique threat, that’s something Italy’s football authorities has been unable to provide.
With the looming threat of the Coronavirus being circulated at football stadiums with so many spectators in close proximity, Lega Calcio suspended four matches on Match Day 25 and six more on Match Day 26. Throw in this week’s two Coppa Italia semifinals and that’s a dozen fixtures that have to be rescheduled.
Roma, who played at home during Match Day 25 and on the island of Sardegna on Match Day 26, were unscathed during the initial cancellations. But all that will likely change this weekend. We already got into the scheduling nightmare that has ensued and the league’s solution to the problem, but essentially the league will make up some of the postponed matches this weekend and push all regularly scheduled matches back by a week.
With this decision, Roma’s match against Sampdoria at the Olimpico will be pushed back from this Sunday the 8th to next Sunday the 15th. Roma’s injury history has been well documented and the schedule is packed this time of year, so is an extra week of rest a good thing for the Giallorossi?
Let’s take a look at some of the pros and cons of the situation and you can decide.
Pros: The Squad is Tired, It’s Just What the Doctor Ordered...
Just last week, ahead of the Cagliari match, manager Paulo Fonseca conceded that his team was tired. The team was coming off a Europa League match in Gent just 72 hours prior. It was Roma’s second straight week of Thursday/Sunday fixtures.
“The team is tired. There hasn’t been much time to recover after a demanding game on a difficult pitch. We’ve been training well, however, and the players seem to be motivated and confident,” said Fonseca in his pre-match presser.
Fortunately for Fonseca, even with heavy turnover his team was able to pull out an important win against Cagliari. It may not have been the prettiest defensive performance from Roma, but the Giallorossi got the job done behind a high flying offense.
With another stretch of back-to-back weeks with Europa League action coming up, Roma will again have to play two more sets of Thursday/Sunday fixtures. It’s far from an ideal calendar for a team like Roma that has already been taxed heavily in recent weeks.
Take into account the injury bug that has plagued Roma all season and the heavy workload becomes an even greater burden for a shorthanded squad. Roma are still without Lorenzo Pellegrini, Amadou Diawara and Javier Pastore, in addition to Nicolò Zaniolo, which has left the midfield shorthanded.
With the extra rest, Roma will have the ability to save some wear and tear on the legs of some of its key players, who haven’t had much rest. Veterans like Chris Smalling, Edin Dzeko, and Aleksandar Kolarov have carried heavy loads all season. Henrikh Mkitaryan, who has struggled with injuries himself, has played a lot in recent weeks, as well. Additionally, Jordan Veretout, who was banged up, could get some much needed rest. For those players, a longer rest could be just what the doctor ordered.
Meanwhile, if reports are to be believed, Pellegrini may be ready to return for Roma’s next scheduled match— March 12th at Sevilla. And speaking of Sevilla, in the Europa League quarterfinals there could be another benefit to the weekend off—Paulo Fonseca will have extra time to prepare his team for the Spanish side.
With Sampdoria out of mind, Fonseca can shift his attention sooner rather than later to Sevilla. The postponed round of Serie A fixtures means that Fonseca can effectively begin game planning for a difficult cup match on Thursday (a week ahead of kick-off) rather than Monday. That extra time could be vital for Fonseca to prep for Julen Lopetegui’s side. Combine that with some fresher than normal legs and Roma may have a leg up on the opposition as they look to bang home some crucial away goals.
There are definitely some benefits to the extra time off, if Roma is able to use the time wisely without losing its match day edge. Speaking of which...
Cons: Roma Were Finally Finding Some Form, This Isn’t Great Timing...
After an absolutely dreadful start to the 2020 calendar year, Roma has finally begun to find some semblance of form in the last couple of weeks. The Giallorossi have won their last two Serie A matches, scoring four times in each match, after losing three straight. Over the same stretch Roma defeated Gent 2-1 on aggregate in the Europa League Round of 16— making for a four match unbeaten run.
That’s great news for a team looking to find a way, any way, to qualify for next season’s Champions League. Which makes one worry a bit with a longer than normal interval between matches. Roma is in good form, but the time off could stunt Roma’s growing rhythm.
So far this season, Roma has had some mixed results coming off of longer than normal time between matches. This season the Serie A calendar broke three times for international windows in September, October, and November. In the matches immediately following an international break, Roma has won twice and drawn once. The Giallorossi defeated Sassuolo 4-2 in September, drew Sampdoria 0-0 in October, and eased by Brescia 3-0 in November.
That’s not too shabby compared to what we’ve seen in other seasons from the Giallorossi. However, the last time Roma had a lengthy break, it was a different story. Roma entered the holiday break on a seven match unbeaten run, including hammering Fiorentina 4-1 on December 20th. After that break, Roma lost five of its next seven league matches.
This break will be of a different nature with players staying to train rather than going away on holiday. However, with that dismal stretch so recent, it has to give one some pause when weighing the pros and cons of this break.
This break is similar to an international break where the players will be focused on football, not tanning in the Maldives or opening Christmas presents. That’s good news when considering that Roma has performed well after those football-centric pauses. However, this time around Roma will be playing a bit tougher competition than Sassuolo, Sampdoria, or Brescia.
Roma will be flying to Spain to face Sevilla in the Europa League quarterfinals. Los Palanganas currently sit third in La Liga and will be no pushover on home turf. So, while the rest could do Roma well, Fonseca will have to work hard all week to ensure that rust doesn’t begin to build on his suddenly high flying attack. Roma will likely need an away goal or two to get past the Spaniards, so a lack of fluidity could be trouble.
Let’s hope that rest doesn’t mean rust and that the Giallorossi will use fresh legs to pick up where they left off in their last four matches.
Do you think the extra week off will be good or bad for the Giallorossi?
This poll is closed
Good- The players could use some rest before another busy month.
Bad- The time off will be bad for the offensive cohesion we’ve seen in recent weeks.