On the whole, Genoa aren’t the most exciting competition Roma could be facing this weekend. As critical as every match in Serie A is for the Giallorossi at the moment, you’d be excused for thinking some of the other matches Steven detailed in his article yesterday were more worth your time this weekend. However, all of that goes out the window when you consider who the Giallorossi will be facing individually when they face Genoa: long-time Roma stalwart and fan-favorite Kevin Strootman.
Roma vs. Genoa: March 7th. 12:30 CET/6:30 EST. Stadio Olimpico, Roma.
I’ll have more to say about that later on, but any Romanista worth their salt knows that this match matters because we get to see Strootman on the field again, albeit playing against Roma. It will be bittersweet for sure, but in a lovely way.
November 8, 2020: Genoa 1, Roma 3
Put quite simply, the last time around with Genoa was the Henrikh Mkhitaryan show. The Armenian attacking midfielder scored a hat-trick, and beyond scoring Roma’s three goals, Mkhitaryan was able to put four shots out of six on target, throw out five key passes, win three aerials, and complete three successful dribbles. Mkhitaryan has been Roma’s MVP this season, and if there was one match to use as his highlight reel, it’d be this one.
Here’s what Bren had to say post-game:
In all my years here at CdT, I can only immediately recall one perfect 10 match rating: none other than Francesco Totti against Fiorentina on December 8, 2012.
Mkhitaryan can’t hold a candle to Totti in any respect, but he turned in a similarly flawless evening yesterday.
In 32 appearances for Roma, Mkhitaryan has 13 goals and 10 assists in all competitions, heights he hasn’t reached since his days with Dortmund. He’ll likely need more rest down the stretch, but right now he’s Roma’s Mr. Everything. They’d be lost without him.
It’s certainly true that Mkhitaryan could use some rest now, and there will always be a little voice in the back of my head worrying that he will pick up an injury due to how much Paulo Fonseca’s used him this season. Even so, it’s an utter pleasure to watch Mkhi play when he’s on form; we can only hope he can mimic that against Genoa again on Sunday.
What To Watch For
Guess Who’s Back?
Kevin Strootman. Er Lavatrice. A player whose career seemed destined for the brightest lights of world football, who became a star in Rome within less than a season, who was derailed by injuries and surgical mistakes that will make every fan of Dutch football wonder “What if?” for a while. It was heartbreaking but understandable when Strootman moved on from the Giallorossi towards the end of the summer mercato in 2018; Eusebio Di Francesco couldn’t guarantee him a starting spot with the squad anymore, so the Dutchman moved on to the greener pastures of Marseille.
Fast forward past an unimpressive season and a half with OM, and Strootman is back in Serie A with Genoa, a definite step down from the seemingly predestined path he had set up for himself to Manchester United and Louis Van Gaal. Life certainly doesn’t always work out the way you think it will, but at the very least Strootman has proven himself to be a serviceable midfielder for Genoa. He’s racked up two assists in Serie A since moving to Genoa in January and gotten himself an average rating of 6.83 on WhoScored; a far cry from the flirtation with stardom he had in 2014 with Roma, but still pretty good for a mid-table side like Il Grifone. We have to hope that Strootman won’t score against the Giallorossi in his first match against his old side, but even if he does, I won’t mind too much as long as Roma can still grab the win. I’ve got enough good memories of Strootman in a Roma kit that it won’t be the end of the world if he gets an ounce of payback against us on Sunday.
In some ways, Amadou Diawara is the Kevin Strootman of this current Giallorossi side. He doesn’t bomb forward towards goal in the way Radja Nainggolan or Henrikh Mkhitaryan do; he’s not the penalty-taker like Jordan Veretout. Yet Roma’s match against Fiorentina in the mid-week was an indicator of what the 23-year-old Guinean international can do when he’s given the reins to the Giallorossi midfield. He makes everything work, and he can combine offensive prowess with defensive stability in a way that’s not easily replicated by any other member of Roma’s squad.
With star midfielder Jordan Veretout likely out for the next month at least, Roma’s midfield is starting to look a whole lot like Roma’s defense, in the sense that depth seems to be disappearing every single week. That’s a huge opportunity for Diawara, considering his starts have been few and far between under Paulo Fonseca this season. If Amadou is able to prove himself over the next month or so, he could find himself just as critical to Roma’s starting eleven as Gonzalo Villar has been this season. He’s only twenty-three, after all, and although the sirens of the Premier League and La Liga have been calling his name for quite some time, I could see Diawara staying in the Eternal City for quite some time. That has to start with proving himself now, though, when the Giallorossi need him the most.
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