It’s always harder to write these match previews when Roma’s up against a team in the relegation zone. Sure, nearly fifteen years of following the Giallorossi has taught me that they have a nasty tendency to play down to their opponent, but there are no superstars on Il Grifone right now to write about, no tactical genius in the dugout, no superbly exciting young talent for Romanisti to hope might move to the Olimpico. The closest thing to a point of intrigue on this Genoa squad that has only won one match all season is the return of former Roma boy Mattia Destro. Beyond that, you’d be excused for focusing far more of your energy on I Lupi’s upcoming Coppa Italia match against league-leaders Inter Milan.
Yet even if the opponent isn’t particularly exciting for the Giallorossi tomorrow, getting the three points is nevertheless crucial. Roma entered the international break in improved form, four points behind Juventus for fifth place and five behind Atalanta for fourth. Wins against Empoli, Lecce, and Cagliari righted the ship after disappointing losses to Milan and Juventus to start 2022, but anything other than three points against Genoa will likely shut the door on the Giallorossi’s chances of securing a Champions League spot for next season.
Their direct rival for fourth place, Juventus, just spent a fantastical amount of money in the winter mercato to sign Dušan Vlahović and Denis Zakaria, so José Mourinho no longer has the ability to put in anything other than his best for league matches. The only chance Romanisti will have of seeing Primavera prospects get minutes outside of Felix Afena-Gyan is if Roma can get ahead of I Rossoblu quickly tomorrow. I’ll certainly be hoping for th because quite frankly I’m exhausted from watching minnows play boring anti-football against I Lupi.
November 27, 2021: Genoa 0, Roma 2
Of course, last time out against Genoa was highlighted by Felix Afena-Gyan’s explosion onto the scene; his brace after subbing on in the 74th minute practically made him a household name among not only Giallorossi fans but fans of Serie A on the whole. Afena-Gyan’s star hasn’t diminished since November, as he’s been getting consistent minutes with the Giallorossi and showing that while not every match results in a brace for him, he has the potential to grow into a great complement to Tammy Abraham and Nicolò Zaniolo up front.
Outside of that, though, this was definitely a frustrating one to watch. The weather was poor, Genoa’s defense was more stubborn than a mule, and players we had hoped would be difference-makers (like Eldor Shomurodov) weren’t able to frustrate a Genoa defense which, again, is not exactly full of world-beaters. I’d love to see another laugher of a game like Roma’s win against Empoli, and maybe the difference-maker tomorrow will be the weather (it’s supposed to be 60 degrees and cloudy at the Olimpico tomorrow). Yet don’t be too shocked if the Giallorossi stumble out of the gate against Genoa; even a 2-0 win last time around took a while to come to fruition.
Will Abraham Push Himself Higher In Roma’s Record Book?
With all the talk about Tammy Abraham’s buy-back clause, or the grumbles comparing his form to Edin Džeko’s excellent form with Inter Milan, it might be easy to miss just how unique Abraham’s first season in Rome has been. Abraham’s 17 goals and four assists place him in elite company among Giallorossi strikers in their first season, though. With his goal against Empoli, he equaled Borja Mayoral’s impressive tally from last season, and with several months left before Serie A wraps things up, there’s a decent chance Tammy Two Goals can equal or surpass Rodolfo Volk’s mark of 24 goals scored in his first season with the Giallorossi.
Granted, Volk’s 24 goals were all in the league as opposed to spread across multiple competitions, so Abraham would have to score fourteen more in Serie A alone to equal the club’s first official goalscorer. The fact that we’re discussing this at all, though, is an indicator of just how impressive Abraham has been since he joined the Giallorossi. With four more goals across all competitions, Abraham can at the very least equal Vincenzo Montella and Gabriel Batistuta’s first-season tallies with the club, and although it’s practically impossible for Abraham to bring Roma the same hardware that Batistuta provided with those 21 goals, another goal or two against a struggling Genoa would certainly add one hell of a silver lining to a season where things haven’t gone exactly as planned.
Can The Zaniolo Show Continue?
Speaking of situations that haven’t gone exactly as planned, Nicolò Zaniolo’s return from injury has been one of the biggest stories of Serie A so far this season, in part because of the fact that he hasn’t rediscovered his goalscoring ways overnight. He’s been slowly finding form over the last several weeks, and it will surely help his self-confidence that Roberto Mancini called him up for the Azzurri this past international break. Yet with the goal tally still low and Juventini vultures reportedly circling, you have to imagine that Zaniolo will be exiting the international break with a chip on his shoulder.
I say this before nearly every match against a minnow, but that’s only because it’s true: tomorrow’s match would be a great chance for Zaniolo to continue developing his confidence by scoring a goal or two. It’s obvious to anyone who’s been watching him play this season that the tools are still there for Zaniolo to become a world-beater; after all, there’s a reason Juventus is reportedly interested in The Kid as a replacement for Paulo Dybala of all people. Particularly with the Inter Coppa Italia match on the horizon, though, it could be crucial for Zaniolo to start a hot run of form right now. His fantasista quality could be a difference-maker for the Giallorossi against the Nerazzurri, but for him to feel truly comfortable putting that on display against some of Serie A’s toughest defenders, it’s critical for him to put away this Genoa side with ease.