All of the momentum from Roma’s victory over Sampdoria came to a screeching halt over the weekend, as the Giallorossi lost to Milan 2-0 at the San Siro. The loss ended Roma’s three match win streak in league play.
It was a listless performance from the Giallorossi who looked fatigued and out of tune in the attacking half of the pitch. And in similarly concerning fashion to the Samp match, Roma gifted its opponent goals.
The loss to the Rossoneri was a brutal blow to Roma’s hopes of qualifying for the Champions League via the domestic route. That’s because Atalanta moved nine points clear of the Giallorossi by defeating Thursday’s opponent, Udinese, in a hotly contested match at the Friuli.
Roma v. Udinese: July 2nd. 21:45 CET/15:45 EDT. Stadio Olimpico, Rome.
Udinese made life tough on La Dea despite falling behind in less than 10 minutes through a Zapata goal. Udinese equalized behind Kevin Lasagna (31’), but a Luis Muriel double (71’, 79’) gave the visitors a 3-1 advantage. The Zebrette wouldn’t give in easily as Lasagna scored his own double in the 87th minute. However, it was too little too late as Udinese fell 3-2 at home. With the loss the Zebrette remain winless in nine straight league matches.
Both teams will try and rebound from their weekend losses when they meet at the Olimpico on Thursday night. However, before we get to the keys to Thursday’s match, let’s look back at the last time these two sides met back in October.
October 30, 2019: Udinese 0, Roma 4
The first time these two sides met, Roma traveled to the Friuli for a tricky midweek encounter. Much like they find themselves now, the Giallorossi were in a brutal stretch of matches. Playing twice weekly and decimated by injuries, nobody would’ve been surprised if Roma followed up a win over Milan with a clunker in Udine.
Roma jumped out to an early advantage behind a Nicolò Zaniolo goal in the 13th minute. However, it looked like disaster had struck when Federico Fazio was given a straight red card as Stefano Okaka closed in on Pau Lopez. Roma was down to 10 men with a shorthanded roster and playing its fourth match in just 10 days.
But rather than roll over and concede to Udinese, the Giallorossi put in one of their best team performances of the season. The numerical disadvantage didn’t stop the Giallorossi from pouring it on the Zebrette, who had just conceded seven to Atalanta over the weekend.
Chris Smalling was able to double the Giallorossi advantage in the 51st minute on a corner kick. Then just minutes later, Justin Kluivert put the game out of reach as Roma hit Udinese with a beautifully constructed counter attack. Finally, Aleksandar Kolarov put the cherry on top of this one by converting a penalty kick in the 65th minute. Roma traveled back to the capital 4-0 winners on the night.
What To Watch For
How Do Roma Replace Veretout?
This season, while others around him have succumb to injury and poor form, the Frenchman has been a constant in the Roma midfield . In fact, Veretout has appeared in every Roma match this season after sitting out the first two . But for the first time, Paulo Fonseca won’t have him as an option due to yellow card suspension.
Veretout is the engine of the Roma midfield. Therefore, Fonseca will not only have to replace a player who ran the second most KM in Roma’s first two matches back, but also the man who led the Giallorossi in passes completed and balls played. Veretout is far more than just hustle and grinta. In many ways Roma’s offense flows through him.
Gonzalo Villar is currently being tipped to replace him in the Giallorossi XI. However, the role that Veretout plays will almost certainly fall on Bryan Cristante with Villar sitting deeper. Cristante is often ridiculed for not being a deep-lying midfielder, so it’ll be interesting to see how he performs in more of a box-to-box role. How well the Italian can fill Veretout’s role could go a long way in seeing Roma win this one.
Roma Needs to Stop Gifting Its Opponents Goals
In their first two matches back, the Giallorossi have conceded three goals. That’s not an awfully high total. However, when you consider the way Roma has conceded those goals, it’s a bit maddening. In Roma’s first match back, Amadou Diawara’s errant pass allowed Manolo Gabbiadini to open the scoring as Antonio Mirante was hung out to dry.
Then against Milan, another poor pass, this one from Zappacosta, put Milan in on goal. Mirante was able to parry away the initial Milan attempt, as well as the rebound. Nevertheless, the third time was the charm as Roma were unable to clear the first two rebounds. Then with Milan up 1-0, Chris Smalling was whistled for a penalty kick that allowed the Rossoneri to put the match out of reach.
All three of those goals were wholly avoidable and while Roma was able to recover from the Samp goal, there was no coming back from the gifts given to Milan. Roma’s attack was non-existent at the San Siro (more on that in a minute), but without those two gimmes, the Giallorossi likely would’ve emerged with a point. Udinese might not be the most imposing opposition, but players like Rodrigo De Paul and Kevin Lasagna could make Roma pay if its not more tidy on the ball.
The Offense Needs to Get Flowing
The Giallorossi attack went missing in action on Sunday at the San Siro. Roma managed just one shot on target and never truly threatened Gigi Donnarumma’s goal. It was a tired performance in which Henrikh Mkhitaryan was the only player to show some offensive spark. Meanwhile, Edin Dzeko looked to be a shell of the man who scored a mouthwatering double against Samp.
If the Milan match proved anything, its that Roma need players not named Dzeko to start contributing goals. Far too often, as Dzeko goes, so does the Roma attack, especially with Zaniolo out. Fonseca will be hoping that an Udinese side that Roma pegged for four back in October can help cure the Giallorossi’s offensive woes with Napoli looming on Sunday.
Fonseca came here with the reputation of a manager whose team can score goals with the best of them. We’ve seen that in bits and pieces this season, but too often Roma has been kept in check. There’s no time like the present for Roma to start scoring more consistently because the matches are coming fast and furious this month.