I’ve got a certain fondness for U.S. Sassuolo. Sure, they’re owned by the Italian version of Dupont Chemicals, but compared to giants like A.C. Milan, Juventus, or hell, even Roma, they’ve always struck me as The Little Engine That Could of Serie A. Sure, Atalanta has now taken some of that shine from them with their Gasperini-inspired success at home and abroad, and Domenico Berardi didn’t turn into the world-beater many expected. Outside of Roma, though, there isn’t a club that typically figures in the top eight of Serie A that I like more.
Sassuolo vs. Roma: April 3rd. 15:00 CET/9:00 EDT. Mapei Stadium, Città del Tricolore.
Regardless of how much I might appreciate the Neroverdi, Roma comes into this match with an incredibly pressing need for three points. The Giallorossi have lost three of their last five in Serie A, and although I’m still optimistic of their chances in the Europa League, Roma needs to start stringing together wins to keep up with the five clubs above them in the standings. Playing Sassuolo while they’re without Domenico Berardi, Francesco Caputo and Manuel Locatelli is a golden opportunity to get back from the international break on the right note - the only question is if the Giallorossi will seize it.
December 16, 20201: Roma 0, Sassuolo 0
In his match highlights article, bren called this one “The Fabio Maresca Show”, and that was 100% on the mark. The weather for Roma’s last match against Sassuolo was terrible, and the referee did such a terrible job that he was punished for the second time this season following a missed penalty call for Roma and a missed red card for Sassuolo midfielder Pedro Obiang.
Thankfully the weather will be much nicer in Sassuolo this weekend; as for the referee, Luca Pairetto doesn’t appear to be the most amenable ref to the Giallorossi cause, but he’ll hopefully be better than Maresca was in December.
What To Watch For
Who Starts For Sassuolo?
As mentioned already, Sassuolo comes into this match with as nearly as thin a squad as the Giallorossi do. In addition to holding out their Italy internationals from this upcoming match, Turkish defender Kaan Ayhan has also been held out due to COVID protocols. Add in the high likelihood that Filippo Romagna and Mehdi Dourabia will be out recovering from injuries, and it seems like a bit of a miracle that the Neroverdi will be able to put together a starting eleven at all.
Steve’s article on predicted lineups will be up soon, but it goes without saying that this level of injury/COVID absences means that Roma has a better opportunity to get three points than usual. That is if their defense manages to hold up under the strain of its own injury crisis...
Roma’s Defense Thinner Than Usual
Roma’s defensive options are similarly limited coming out of the international break, but not out of COVID precautions like Sassuolo. Instead, Marash Kumbulla’s season-ending injury combined with injuries to Roger Ibañez, Chris Smalling, and Bryan Cristante means that Roma’s once-mighty centerback depth chart has been annihilated. Expect further appearances from Federico Fazio until Smalling and Ibañez return to the fold, and maybe even a Juan Jesus sighting.
Given how dicey Roma’s defense is looking at the moment, it’s a bit of a relief that Jordan Veretout is likely to return to the field against Sassuolo. Roma’s leading goalscorer for the season was out for about a month after picking up a knock against his old club Fiorentina, and during that time the wheels really fell off the Giallorossi wagon, at least in Serie A. Don’t expect Veretout to be back to his old tricks immediately, but in a match where the Giallorossi have next to no defensive depth, it will be a relief to see Veretout working with Lorenzo Pellegrini again. Who knows, maybe we’ll get a FonsecaBall spin on Zemanlandia because of all of these missing defenders. It would certainly make watching Roma more enjoyable again.
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Every healthy player gets injured and the match has to be called off