It’s been incredibly smooth sailing for the Good Ship Giallorossi so far this season, with i Lupi going undefeated through their first six matches in all competitions. You can quibble about the quality of side that Jose Mourinho’s squad has faced to date, but even though Roma haven’t faced a Top 4-level side yet, winning all of these matches handily was certainly the best-case scenario for the club going into the season. Sunday’s match against Hellas Verona doesn’t look like it will be the match that ends the good times for the Giallorossi, either, as the Venetian side has had the exact opposite fortune of Roma this season, losing every match they’ve played so far.
Hellas Verona vs. Roma: September 19th. 18:00 CET/12:00 EDT. Stadio Bentegodi, Verona
That poor form has already resulted in a major shake-up for Hellas, with former Roma manager Eusebio Di Francesco’s sacking after matchday three resulting in the hiring of Igor Tudor. Tudor spent the last year as an assistant to Andrea Pirlo at Juventus, but was unemployed following Pirlo’s sacking at the end of last season. Other than that time as Pirlo’s assistant and two non-consecutive seasons at Udinese, we haven’t seen much of Tudor in Serie A.
Given that, the biggest thing this battered Verona side have going for them is the element of surprise and the potential desire to impress their new manager. Because it’s clear that Mourinho’s Roma outclasses I Gialloblu, this preview will focus a bit more on who might help extend Roma’s winning streak this weekend; there’s always a chance that Roma happens, but this Verona shouldn’t strike fear into Romanisti hearts (knock on wood).
What To Watch For
Can Stephan Score Three Matches in a Row?
Stephan El Shaarawy is on quite a nice run of form in the past week, as he scored critical goals versus both Sassuolo and CSKA Sofia. With Henrikh Mkhitaryan looking like he might be rested yet again, we should expect to see José Mourinho continue to take advantage of Il Faraone’s hot streak by pairing him with Tammy Abraham and Nicolò Zaniolo up front.
There’s a lot riding on El Shaarawy this season. The 2022 World Cup is most likely his last chance to win a trophy with the Italian National Team, and outside of the past week, Stephan’s form since his return from China hasn’t merited much praise. If El Shaarawy can become a key part of Roma’s forward rotation this season, though, one has to imagine Roberto Mancini will give him a serious look before heading to Qatar. Scoring another goal on Sunday would be the first step in making sure that El Shaarawy is a frequently-used part of Jose Mourinho’s tactical arsenal for the long term.
Can Zaniolo Get Off The Mark In League Play?
Maybe it’s because of Lorenzo Pellegrini’s incredible start to the season, or maybe it’s because of the aforementioned 100% win record that José Mourinho has attained with the Giallorossi, but it certainly seems like the Nicolò Zaniolo Hype Train has slowed a tad this season. Zaniolo is obviously still early in the process of returning from two ACL tears, and he has already scored one goal (albeit in the European Conference League play-in); nevertheless, The Kid has often looked a little less sure of himself as he’s easing himself back into the role of Roma’s starting right-winger.
Zaniolo certainly needs some time to get used to the Ronaldo-esque body he’s built while rehabbing his ACLs, and I’m not the least bit worried about his long-term prospects. Still, scoring a goal against Verona would undoubtedly do wonders for his confidence, which is essential to his style of play.
How Will Verona’s Recent Managerial Chance Affect Mourinho’s Planning?
As mentioned earlier, Hellas Verona will be debuting a new manager against the Giallorossi tomorrow. Eusebio Di Francesco’s string of terrible performances to start the season led to him getting the sack astonishingly quickly, so Igor Tudor is the new man who will be drawing the x’s and o’s for i Mastini. It’s an open question how the Hellas squad will react to playing under a new manager, and even how they’ll line up against Roma tomorrow.
José Mourinho should feel confident facing this side, of course; there’s a reason beyond Di Francesco’s failings as a manager that Hellas haven’t notched even a draw so far this season. In his pre-match presser, he stayed mum on what he was expecting from Hellas, saying that “It’s not my business to talk about other teams and what decisions are made.” Even still, in a match that theoretically could be an easy win, you have to imagine that Mourinho will be expecting a different Hellas than the one we’ve seen so far this season. It’ll be up to him to make sure that a different tactical setup from Igor Tudor will still result in a fourth straight loss for Gli Scaligeri.
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