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Roma Host Empoli While Trying to Keep Pace With Top Four

With a match against Juventus looming, will José Mourinho give younger players a real chance in Serie A matches?

Zorya Lugansk v AS Roma: Group D - UEFA Europa Conference League Photo by Luciano Rossi/AS Roma via Getty Images

I hate international breaks. Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy watching international matches—who doesn’t love the World Cup? Yet the sheer number of injuries Roma players get on these mid-season breaks means that I have to hate them, particularly when the matches themselves are somewhat meaningless. When FIFA suggests things like a biannual World Cup, I shiver in anticipation of ACL tears to come.

Thankfully, the Giallorossi have one more match before the international break, as they return home from Ukraine to host Empoli F.C. Roma have a superb record against Empoli in top-flight play, winning 14 out of 19 match-ups and the last three consecutive matches; of course, Roma’s loss against Hellas Verona a couple of weeks ago is a harsh reminder that history is not always predictive of the future.

Roma vs. Empoli: October 3rd. 18:00 CET/12:00 EDT. Stadio Olimpico, Roma.

Aurelio Andreazzoli’s men have some interesting players on their side, most specifically Inter loanee Andrea Pinamonti. While this match could be an easy win against a newly-promoted side, the talent and potential Pinamonti has in his right foot alone might make this a tough match if Roma’s defense falls asleep at the wheel. Let’s hope that the Giallorossi can further cement their spot in the Champions League places with a win; even if this match might be a challenge, it’ll probably be a cakewalk compared to their post-break battle royale against Juventus.

What To Watch For

Will Darboe Get Another Start?

Press conference of head coaches of FC Zorya and AS Roma in Zaporizhzhia Photo credit should read Dmytro Smoliyenko/ Ukrinform/Barcroft Media via Getty Images

For a little while there, Ebrima Darboe seemed like he might have been a flash in the pan, a youth prospect thrown on at the end of the Paulo Fonseca Era because everyone knew the Portuguese tactician wasn’t long for Rome. José Mourinho didn’t seem that impressed by the Gambian midfielder during the pre-season, and prior to his start against Zorya Luhansk, he hadn’t even seen the pitch during The Special One’s tenure.

It’s safe to say that he seized on the chance José Mourinho gave him with that start in Ukraine. Darboe put in a man-of-the-match performance against Luhansk, completing nearly all of his passes and notching an assist. It’s far too early to say if Darboe might be a real option for Mourinho in his midfield rotation, but given the fact that neither Gonzalo Villar nor Amadou Diawara seems like long-term inhabitants of Trigoria, Darboe might have stumbled into a golden opportunity for minutes.

If Mourinho hands Darboe either another start or significant minutes against Empoli, it would certainly bode well for the midfielder’s future in Rome. We all know that Roma needs a defensive-minded midfielder ASAP—could Darboe be that midfielder?

Viña in the Hot Seat?

SS Lazio v AS Roma - Serie A Photo by Giuseppe Bellini/Getty Images

It can’t be easy being Matias Viña right now. Sure, he’s put in some good performances here and there for Roma since his transfer from Palmeiras, but the red-hot starts of Tammy Abraham and Eldor Shomurodov, not to mention the good form of players like Lorenzo Pellegrini, have made his star shine a lot less brightly by comparison. Add in the fact that Riccardo Calafiori has been impressing more and more during his rotational starts this season, and it wouldn’t be surprising if Viña felt that he was the most at-risk player in José Mourinho’s starting eleven.

We’re heading into the international break, so however Mourinho decides to line up the squad against Empoli should be taken with a grain of salt. However, it’s pretty clear that Viña needs to start showing his best, and soon. A great start from Viña could quiet the voices clamoring for the Calafiori to get consistent playtime in Serie A; another mediocre one and the hometown boy might really get a shot after his trip with the Italy U-21s.

How Will Lorenzo Pellegrini Celebrate His Contract Renewal?

Zorya Lugansk v AS Roma - Group C- UEFA Europa Conference League Photo by Stanislav Vedmid/DeFodi Images via Getty Images

Of course, the biggest news in the RomaVerse this week won’t be any particular match result, but the renewal of Lorenzo Pellegrini’s contract with the Giallorossi until 2026. These contract negotiations were a long, arduous journey, but particularly after Pellegrini’s scorching-hot form to start the season, it became abundantly clear that making Capitano one of the club’s highest-paid players was a necessity.

With the ink drying on Pellegrini’s contract as I write this article, the next thought has to be: will Lorenzo put in another man of the match performance to celebrate his new contract? Empoli aren’t exactly the most terrifying club in the league, so it’s not out of the question that Pellegrini could get in a goal or two against the Tuscan club. I for one hope that Pellegrini’s able to mark his new contract with the Giallorossi by scoring one and assisting one; for a man who looks on the verge of becoming a double-double machine, nothing would be more appropriate.

Even if that doesn’t happen, though, let’s use tomorrow’s match to appreciate that Lorenzo Pellegrini is set to stay in Rome for a long while yet.