We all know the reason José Mourinho was brought to Roma: to change a club culture that grew stale during the James Pallotta era; one that was bereft of trophies. It’s been more than a decade since the Giallorossi has won anything; not since the club lifted the Coppa Italia in 2008 That’s a problem when a club wants to be mentioned in the same sentence as the Juventus’, Real Madrids, Bayern Munichs, and Liverpools of the world—Europe's top clubs.
As a result, the Friedkins swung big and brought in one of the winningest managers of all time. Of course, most levelheaded followers of the club understand that Mourinho is no magician and can’t change things overnight, which we've seen in the league results so far.
However, trophies are always the goal of the Special One, so Roma will certainly try to win one if it can. And their next crack at silverware comes Tuesday in Milano when Roma plays the quarterfinals of the Coppa Italia against Inter.
What To Watch For
Will Lorenzo Pellegrini Return?
There’s no doubting that Pellegrini has grown into one of the most influential players on this Roma squad. The Roma skipper is now the unquestioned leader of his side, through both his words and his actions. His performances have been those of a player poised for stardom.
However, his injury record continues to plague him and he’s returning from another spell in the trainer’s room. It’s been a nagging issue for the Giallorossi, who always seem to lack something when Pellegrini isn’t pulling the strings in the attacking midfield. He adds that extra layer of creativity that can unlock the defense for danger men like Tammy Abraham and Nico Zaniolo. And he chips in some lovely goals of his own; something Roma has missed desperately against compact sides like Genoa.
Whether or not he has enough to start remains to be seen, but he returned to training this past week and is expected to be part of the squad tomorrow. José Mourinho will hope so as he tries to go back to his old stomping grounds and pull a big upset.
What Kind of Reception Will Mourinho Get?
One of José Mourinho’s biggest successes as a manager came as the man in charge of the Nerazzurri. The Portuguese tactician won two Scudetti and a historic tripletta (Scudetto, Coppa Italia, Champions League) in his two seasons at the helm of the Nerazzurri. Those two Scudetti led to joy in the black and blue section of Milano and suffering the red and yellow part of the Italian capital as Roma played bridesmaid to those Inter sides.
Now, Mourinho returns to the San Siro for the first time in charge of an Italian side after leaving Inter for Real Madrid in 2010. It’ll be interesting to see if Mourinho gets an ovation upon his return or if the sight of him leading another Italian will garner any ill-will. One would think that, at least prior to kick off, his history would merit some applause, but who knows how that could change if Roma pulls out an upset victory.
Which Team Bounces Back from a Disappointing Weekend?
We all know by now what transpired at the Olimpico on Saturday: Roma struggled to score against a compact, aggressive Genoa side, only to see a dramatic Zaniolo winner erased by VAR. For the umpteenth time this season, refereeing decisions have become an issue for Roma; something that will eventually weigh on the players. One has to hope that the quick turnaround will allow the team to move on and not carry it into this one.
Meanwhile, Inter suffered a shock defeat to rivals AC Milan in the Derby della Madoninna. The Nerazzurri led 1-0 after a dominant first half, only to see Olivier Giroud turn the match on its head in three minutes. It was a result that effectively reopens the Scudetto race and puts more pressure on Simone Inzaghi’s side ahead of a trip to Naples on the weekend.
With that in mind, it’ll be interesting to see if Inter comes out angry and firing on all cylinders or reeling and more concerned with its top-of-the-table clash against Napoli on the weekend. If Inzaghi decides to turn over his roster a bit in advance of Napoli and the Nerazzurri are still hungover from that defeat then maybe, just maybe, Roma can find a way to pull out a surprise result.
INTER (3-5-2): Handanovic; Skriniar, De Vrij, Bastoni; Darmian, Barella, Brozovic, Calhanoglu, Dimarco; Dzeko, Sanchez.
ROMA (3-5-2): Rui Patricio; Mancini, Smalling, Ibanez; Karsdorp, Oliveira, Cristante, Mkhitaryan, Viña; Zaniolo, Abraham.
February 8th. 21:00 CET/3:00 EST.