Aren’t you happy the international break is nearly over? I certainly am; I find it hard to pay too much attention to non-tournament play with the national sides. Even though it’s incredible that the Azzurri have reached new levels of excellence through their unbeaten streak, I’ll wait to get super excited about their chances until Nicolò Zaniolo, Lorenzo Pellegrini, and Gianluca Mancini are consistent members of Roberto Mancini’s starting eleven.
Roma vs. Sassuolo: September 12th. 20:45 CET/2:45 EDT. Stadio Olimpico, Roma.
Given that, it’ll certainly be refreshing to once again pull up Paramount+ and watch Serie A yet again. Although Roma’s opponent this Sunday isn’t the most challenging club to face in the league, or even a rival like Lazio, this match does matter quite a bit: depending on your opinion of Fiorentina, Sassuolo might just be the toughest competition Roma has faced so far. Add in the knocks picked up by key first-team players during the break, and it’s clear that José Mourinho’s winning streak to start the season may truly be put to the test.
What To Watch For
Hey, Richy, You’re So Fine
When Matias Viña was brought in at left-back following Leonardo Spinazzola’s Achilles tear, many thought it was an indicator that Mourinho and Tiago Pinto didn’t believe Roman academy product Riccardo Calafiori was ready quite yet. Regardless of whether or not that’s true, it appears that Mourinho has decided to use the slight injury Viña picked up while playing for the Uruguayan national team to give Calafiori his first start of the season.
Despite being only 19, Calafiori has been in and out of Roma’s senior squad for a couple of seasons now, so it’s clear that several managers have seen the potential for greatness in him. Sunday’s match won’t doom or bless his career; the mere fact that he fought his way through early-career injuries to make it to even this level is testament enough to both his mental fortitude and his innate ability. Yet you have to believe that if Calafiori can put in a clutch performance against Sassuolo, Mourinho will feel more and more comfortable turning the Italy U-21 star into a rotational starter for the Giallorossi.
Bring on Bove?
Another Roman who looks like he might at least get some minutes against Sassuolo is Edoardo Bove, seen here ignoring vegan cooking tips from Chris Smalling (“Look, man, you can’t make me not want to eat cacio e pepe, okay?”) Il Tempo recently reported that the positive impression Bove made on Mourinho during pre-season will soon bear fruit, as Bove now looks to be the young midfielder Roma will look to when something happens to one of Jordan Veretout or Lorenzo Pellegrini.
Of course, Bove’s jump to the head of the line to become Roma’s midfield hotshot raises several questions about the futures of Gonzalo Villar, Ebrima Darboe, and to a lesser extent Amadou Diawara. All three of those players have proven themselves much more than Bove; all three of them look as if they’re on the outside looking in with regards to José Mourinho’s team sheet. However, the discussion of the long-term futures of those players is best saved for another article; for our purposes, just remember to keep an eye on numero 52. He may have only clocked three minutes so far this season, but all indications suggest we may be seeing more and more of him, even starting this Sunday.
Will the Tammy Train Keep Chugging Along?
For reasons I’ve explained several times, I was always pretty excited by the prospect of signing Tammy Abraham (check out our latest Across the Romaverse if you want to hear it again). Yet I didn’t expect Abraham to gel and perform as quickly as he has to date with José Mourinho and the Giallorossi. It’s been uncanny how with no training time, the English international has already made a mark on Serie A as a star in the making. One goal and two assists through two Serie A matches is nothing to sneeze at, and against a Sassuolo defense one can charitably describe as “mid-table”, it certainly seems possible that Abraham can add to either his goal or assist tally this Sunday.
Even so, the chances of Abraham exploding so much that he’s a guaranteed goal or assist every match are, shall we say, minimal. So one question that’s bouncing around my mind is what will happen to Abraham’s confidence after a tough day at the office? If he notches no goals, no assists, and no key passes over the course of the full ninety, will he have the determination necessary to shake his head and circle the next match on the calendar for payback time?
I certainly hope he will; the type of player who seizes on the chance to come play for Roma instead of staying in the city he’s called home since he was a child is the type of player determined to make a splash. Even still, Mike Tyson said it best: “Everybody has a plan until they get punched in the mouth.” I’m not expecting a poor match from Abraham on Sunday, but I am very curious to see how he responds to a punch in the mouth, whether that happens this weekend or against a big team like Juventus or Milan.