Sleeping giants have always been a fascinating concept to me. Whether it’s the New York Knicks, Sunderland, or Roma’s opponent this weekend, seeing clubs with a history become serial underachievers is intriguing if only because you have to imagine that with the right ownership, the good times can come back yet again. Parma looked as if they might be returning to some form of the Good Old Days in 2018, as they strung together three straight promotions from Serie D into Serie A. With the way they’ve played this season, though, it looks as if that chance at returning to the Good Old Days might already be gone.
Parma vs. Roma: March 14th. 15:00 CET/10:00 EDT. Stadio Tardini, Parma
I wasn’t as fanatical a follower of Serie A when Parma were a fixture of Serie A, but to hear the people who were around for that tell it, I really missed out. I Crociati are now a shadow of their former selves, and a relegation back to Serie B at the end of this season seems all but assured. With Parma winless in their last five, this should no doubt be an easy three points for Paulo Fonseca and his men, leaving the return of Gervais Yao Kouassi as the best reason to tune in tomorrow.
November 22, 2020: Roma 3, Parma 0
Last time the Giallorossi went up against Parma, it was a pretty open-and-shut case. Henrikh Mkhitaryan once again showed himself to be perhaps Roma’s best player of the season, with a brace from the Armenian and the first goal of the season for Borja Mayoral ensuring that Paulo Fonseca’s men got the three points.
Here’s what Bren had to say post-match:
You have to consider the level of the opponent here—Parma were in 15th place after all—but Paulo Fonseca’s men played to perfection today: the passing was crisp, the chances were finished and the defense was swift and decisive.
Roma’s stadium dreams remain a nightmarish hell-scape of bureaucratic red-tape and kickbacks, but nearly everything else in the organization is trending upwards at the moment. With six wins in their last nine fixtures in all competitions, the Giallorossi are among the hottest teams in the league and look like legitimate contenders to finish in the top four. And given how wide open the table seems this season, perhaps they can dream just a bit higher than that.
Roma are still definitively in contention for the top four, and all those upward trends on the side of management are still... trending upwards. Another resounding win against Parma will only cement the fact that The Friedkin Group’s Roma seems to be made of sterner stuff than Pallotta’s.
What To Watch For
The Return of Gervinho
Even though this match should be a pretty open-and-shut case for Roma, it will at least be mildly interesting to see Gervinho once again play the club where he had his rebirth as a European-level forward. Obviously, he’s now lost a lot of the form he had under Rudi Garcia, but he’s still a decent threat on goal, having scored six across all competitions so far this season.
With Chris Smalling out, it’ll most likely be on Gianluca Mancini and Max Kumbulla to contain the Ivorian attacker. In all honesty, that doesn’t seem like a tall order for either defender, but considering this match looks as if it has a good chance of being a laugher, I wouldn’t be heartbroken to see Gervinho nab himself a consolation goal. He’s not the Gervinho of 2014 anymore, but my heart still has a smidge of nostalgia for him and his Predator-style locks.
SES Gets the Start?
Stephen El Shaarawy finally notched his first goal for the Giallorossi since his return from China against Shahktar Donetsk, and all signs point to Paulo Fonseca giving him a larger and larger role in the side as he becomes acclimated to Serie A once again. The (hopefully short-term) injury setback for Henrikh Mkhitaryan gives El Shaarawy some room to breathe in the starting eleven, as Pedro doesn’t look to be in true contention for a permanent starting spot at this point in his career. When combined with the relatively poor recent form of Borja Mayoral, the runway has been cleared for Il Faraone’s campaign for inclusion in Italy’s squad for the Euros. Notching multiple goals against Parma tomorrow would be a great way for him to get Roberto Mancini’s attention, and more than that, it will give the Giallorossi even more flexibility up front as they get deeper into the Europa League and the final weeks of the Serie A campaign.
Rotation, Rotation, Rotation
This is a match that cries out for rotation. Parma are the weakest opponent the Giallorossi have faced in weeks, and if I were Paulo Fonseca, I’d probably be more worried about a potential Shakhtar Donetsk comeback on Thursday than a loss to I Crociati. Of course, that confidence in an easy win hinges on the strong mentality that the Giallorossi have shown against smaller sides so far this season continuing to hold, but giving players like Riccardo Calafiori and Pedro a chance to prove themselves will only help Roma’s chances at maintaining that mentality.
If Fonseca gives some of the guys who are grumbling about being stuck on the bench a chance to shine tomorrow, he’ll also get to rest workhorses like Leonardo Spinnazzola, saving their energy for more important matches. Smart rotation is the only way for the Giallorossi to juggle the race for the top four in Serie A with a deep run in the Europa League. Both competitions are mission-critical for Roma, and the Giallorossi can find success in both if they think ahead.
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