The Giallorossi had a successful return to the pitch on Wednesday thanks to a lovely Dzeko double. With the victory, Roma has now won three straight in the league—albeit with a long break between wins two and three. Meanwhile, thanks to cross-city rivals Lazio throwing away a two-goal advantage in Bergamo, the Giallorossi remain six points behind Atalanta for a coveted Champions League place.
While Roma dominated possession in its match, the Giallorossi needed some magic from their captain to secure three points. Conversely, their opponent on Sunday, AC Milan, bounced back from its Coppa Italia semifinal defeat with a dominant 4-1 victory over Lecce at the Via del Mare on Monday. With the win, Milan leapfrogged Hellas Verona into seventh place, the last European spot on the table.
Milan v. Roma: June 28th. 17:15 CET/11:15 EDT. San Siro, Milan.
As we discussed in the probable formations, expect some heavy turnover from Paulo Fonseca with Roma playing on just three days rest. Meanwhile, with Milan playing two days earlier, Stefano Pioli’s squad choices should be buoyed by the extra rest. It’ll be interesting to see if fatigue plays a factor at all with the early kick-off time and temperatures pushing 90 degrees Fahrenheit (above 30C) in Italy’s fashion capital.
October 27, 2019: Roma 2, Milan 1
The last time these two sides met, Roma emerged victorious at the Olimpico back in the late October. Roma were injury-riddled and started a makeshift line-up that saw Gianluca Mancini in the midfield and Javier Pastore at trequartista with three Primavera players on the bench. Yet, despite its roster shortcomings on the day, Roma found a way to get things done.
It was a tight affair with the sides splitting possession just about evenly (53-47 Milan) and both teams unleashing 11 shots. Edin Dzeko opened the scoring in the 38th minute, which was enough to send Roma into the locker room with an advantage.
Nevertheless, Milan bounced back with Theo Hernandez finding space off a set piece to even the score in the 55th minute. But the tie score wouldn’t last long. Just four minutes later, Nicolò Zaniolo took advantage of a fortunate bounce to slide home the match winner past Gigi Donnarumma. Roma missed a few opportunities to extend its lead and put the game out of reach. However, on this day, the Giallorossi didn’t have to rue missed chances as they saw out a 2-1 victory at home.
What To Watch For
Can Dzeko Build Off Wednesday’s Performance?
The big story of Wednesday’s match was Edin Dzeko putting in a masterclass performance up front. The Bosnian scored two lovely first-time goals on balls played over his shoulder. Without him, the Giallorossi would likely have been lamenting three dropped points. On Sunday, Dzeko will look to pick up where he left off against Samp.
As we discussed earlier in the break, Dzeko has done a lot of good things this season, but was under-performing in his goal-scoring. That wasn’t the case Wednesday.
On Sunday, Dzeko faces off against a slightly stouter Milan backline. It looks like Simon Kjaer will be ready to go on Sunday after leaving Monday’s match with a bruised knee. With the Dane in tow alongside Alessio Romagnoli, Milan has its preferred central defense pairing.
An in-form Dzeko is a handful for any defense, so it’ll be up to the two former Roma defenders to try and limit his impact. Dzeko punished the Rossoneri back in October and if he can add to his tally then it could go a long way in Roma taking all three points. However, if Dzeko is kept in check it could be a long night for Roma.
Can Roma Win the Battle in Midfield?
Both sides are projected to play mirroring 4-2-3-1 formations on Sunday, which means the midfield battle will likely come down to the two sides’ double pivots. Roma are projected to start Jordan Veretout and Bryan Cristante, while Milan will likely go with Franck Kessie and Ismael Bennacer.
Cristante and Kessie provide their sides with a physical presence while Bennacer and Veretout provide a bit more dynamism. All four are willing workers and none shy away from tackles. Thus it’ll be up to the Roma duo to outwork and out-physical their counterparts if Roma are to control the center of the pitch.
Some of the responsibility of slowing down Bennacer will likely also fall on Lorenzo Pellegrini. Roma’s trequartista will likely be tasked with pressing the Algerian when he attempts to dictate play from the regista position. Against Lecce, Bennacer completed 91.9% of his 86 passes. Roma can’t allow him to pass the ball at will.
Along the same lines, Cristante and Veretout will have to slow down attacking midfielders Hakan Çalhanoğlu and Jack Bonaventura who had a field day in Puglia.
Can Zappacosta Contain Theo Hernandez?
Theo Hernandez has been of Serie A’s breakout stars during the 2019-20 campaign, establishing himself as one of the league’s best left-backs. The 22-year-old Frenchman can maraud down the flank with the best of them, while also providing solid defensive cover. And Roma saw just how deadly he can be when he finds space the last time these sides met.
Davide Zappacosta will likely find himself defending Hernandez when he pushes down the Giallorossi’s right flank. This will be Zappacosta’s first start in a Roma shirt and it’ll likely be a trial by fire in many ways. The Italian was likely used a substitute Wednesday to have him ready to start in this one since he’s a better defender than Bruno Peres.
Roma could look to could extend Zappacosta’s stay in the Capital past his current loan. If the Italian can keep Hernandez contained and help Roma to victory in this one then it could go a long way in seeing him back in Giallorosso next season.