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After Three-Months Off, Can Roma Shake Off Rust Against Sampdoria?

After more than three months without game action, it’s anyone’s best guess as to how this one will play out.

UC Sampdoria v AS Roma - Serie A Photo by Paolo Rattini/Getty Images

With the Giallorossi returning to the pitch for the first time in more than three months, this should be a time of rejoicing around Roma-verse. However, with Roma being Roma, things are never quite so clear cut. Thanks to plenty of front office drama over the last week, the squad’s return to the playing field has been overshadowed; adding another layer of uncertainty to an already unpredictable match.

Roma vs. Sampdoria: June 24th. 21:45 CET/3:45 EDT. Stadio Olimpico, Roma.

But before we talk too much about this one, let’s take a look back at the last time these sides met.

Last Match

October 20, 2019: Sampdoria 0, Roma 0

This match may have been Roma’s most lackluster offensive performance of the season, especially when taking into consideration the opponent. At the time, Samp sat bottom of Serie A and had just fired one former Roma manager, Eusebio Di Francesco, and replaced him with his Roma replacement, Claudio Ranieri. With Ranieri in his first game in charge and coming off an international break, things were always going to be tricky for Roma.

Roma controlled possession with ease (63%), but did little with it at the Marassi. Two first half injuries didn’t help matters, but this was a match Roma would’ve been expected to win. Bryan Cristante was replaced by Javier Pastore in just the 8th minute and Nikola Kalinic was replaced by Edin Dzeko just before half. Roma looked slightly better in the second half with Dzeko leading the line, but just two shots on target was nothing to write home about. As can be seen in the “highlights”, there wasn’t much worth remembering about in this one.

What To Watch For

Can Roma Rediscover Its Attacking Rhythm?

KAA Gent v AS Roma - UEFA Europa League Round of 32: Second Leg Photo by Jean Catuffe/Getty Images

Prior to the league shutting down, Roma was in fine form having won back-to-back matches in the league while eliminating Gent in the Europa League. Probably most impressive from that stretch was the attacking prowess shown in the league by Fonseca’s men. The Giallorossi put up four goals at home against Lecce and then again on the road to Cagliari.

After so much time away from the pitch, Roma is likely to show plenty of rust. We’ve already seen how difficult it’s been for a possession based team like Juve to break down sides that dug in against their vaunted attack in the Coppa last week. With Roma more than likely to dominate possession against a deep-defending Samp side led by Ranieri, the Giallorossi will have to do a better job of shaking off the rust than the Bianconeri did.

Just how quickly Roma can shake that rust will likely determine if the Giallorossi can get a vital three points at home. Roma are well-aware of the way Ranieri will likely pack in his defense and look to strike on the counter to steal a crucial road result in Samp’s quest for salvation.

This is where Roma’s more creative attackers will come into play. Fonseca was without both Henrikh Mkhitaryan and Lorenzo Pellergini against Samp the first time around. This time around, one or both could be crucial in picking out killer ball to split open Samp’s defense. The Bluchercati defense has been feast or famine this season, so if Roma can find one early, the floodgates could open up.

Can Roma Limit the Damage?

AS Roma v Brescia Fc - Serie A Photo by Matteo Ciambelli/NurPhoto via Getty Images

For much of the season, Roma’s defense has been fairly solid with Gianluca Mancini and Chris Smalling forming one of Serie A’s best defensive partnerships. Nevertheless, 2020 saw a sharp decline in Roma’s defending. The Giallorossi only kept one cleansheet in nine 2020 league matches prior to the shutdown and allowed two or more goals in six of those matches. The defense’s job should be just a bit easier with Fabio Quagliarella ruled out through injury. However, if Roma is to take three points and finish the season strong then the defense will have to re-find it’s 2019 form.

Will Sampdoria Playing Once Already Help or Hinder Them?

FC Internazionale v UC Sampdoria - Serie A Photo by Emilio Andreoli/Getty Images

Relegation battling Samp may have the toughest opening pair of games to re-open play outside of Napoli in the Coppa Italia. With the Bluchercati having already played and lost 2-1 to Inter on Sunday, will that help or hinder them against Roma? This could play out one of two ways against a Roma side in its first match back. Samp could find a better rhythm early on than Roma after playing just three days prior. Conversely, such a quick turnaround could necessitate greater than usual turnover for Samp with fatigue being an issue. It’ll be interesting to see if Roma will have to weather an early storm from a sharper Samp side or if Roma will have fresher legs to outlast a tired side. How this plays out is anyone’s best guess.