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Roma Look to Start Season Strong Against Salernitana

It's been three long months, but Roma is back in action, kicking off the new campaign with a road trip to Salerno. Can the new-look Roma overrun their opponents, or will they stumble out the gate?

Paulo Dybala of AS Roma (r) and Nicolo Zaniolo during the... Photo by Andrea Staccioli/Insidefoto/LightRocket via Getty Images

While Tiago Pinto has a few loose threads to sew up before calling it a day on the summer transfer market, the simple act of signing Paulo Dybala has most Roma fans ready to run through a wall as they wait for the new season to begin. Adding names like Nemanja Matic and Georginio Wijnaldum may not have produced the same level of euphoria, but there's no doubt this is the most impressive squad Roma has assembled since the days of Mohamed Salah and Alisson Becker.

That hysteria reached new levels after the club's 5-0 thrashing of Shakhtar Donetsk last week. With Lorenzo Pellegrini, Nicolo Zaniolo, Tammy Abraham, and Dybala pinging passes around the final third like levers in a pinball machine, José Mourinho's men were practically in midseason form as they toyed with their Ukrainian counterparts.

It was a fitting appetizer for what many fans hope will be a similarly lopsided match as the Giallorossi open the 2022-2023 campaign on the road against Salernitana. After returning to the top-flight for the first time in 23 years, Salernitana narrowly—and we mean narrowly—staved off relegation, avoiding the drop by a solitary point.

But you know what they say about any given Sunday, don't you?

With so much hype surrounding the club at the moment, it would be oh so Roma Happened for the club to come out and lay an egg against lowly Salernitana. We don't expect that to be the case, but as Roma fans, it's always wise to be on guard, so let's look at a few of the key storylines in Sunday's fixture.

Keep An Eye On

AS Roma Training Session Photo by Fabio Rossi/AS Roma via Getty Images

The Lineups

Admittedly, this will likely be a storyline in every match this season—especially now that Roma has such tremendous depth—but in this, the first fixture of the season, Mourinho's lineup selection will be quite telling. Will he play it safe and rely on most of his incumbent players, or throw caution into the wind and trot out his new signings en masse?

Then there's the matter of the minor knock Nicola Zalewski may or may not have sustained late in the week. When healthy, Leonardo Spinazzola is the unquestioned start at left wing-back, but are we sure he's all the way back from his Achilles injury? Any undue stress on his legs early in the season could mean trouble come spring, so to keep Spinazzola healthy, Roma needs Zalewski healthy—it's a potential nightmare of circular logic.

Apart from that, keep an eye on the Bryan Cristante vs. Nemanja Matic and Rick Karsdorp vs. Zeki Celik matchups. Mourinho's decisions in these positional battles could tell us which way he's leaning as the season begins.

Our Old Buddy, Erik Botheim

Roma could go on to win 12-straight league titles, a handful of Champions League trophies, and displace Real Madrid as the world's most successful club, and we'd still likely shudder at the words Bodø/Glimt, the tiny Norwegian club that put eight goals past the Giallorossi in last year's Conference League competition, including the now infamous 6-1 beatdown. And with three goals and three assists across those two contests, Botheim was front and center in that Norwegian nightmare.

Football Europa Conference League Roma-Bodo Glimt Photo by Massimo Insabato/Archivio Massimo Insabato/Mondadori Portfolio via Getty Images

And as fate would have it, Roma will see him twice more this season after the 22-year-old forward signed a free agent deal with Salernitana this summer. While he's not likely to repeat his Conference League heroics tomorrow, he promises to be a pivotal piece for Davide Nicola's side this season, so Chris Smalling and the rest of Roma's backline would be wise to keep an eye on Botheim.

The Front Four

We don't have an official, pithy nickname for the quarter of Tammy Abraham, Paulo Dybala, Nicolo Zaniolo, and Lorenzo Pellegrini yet, but... can you believe we get to see all four of them play together!?

This still doesn't feel real. No matter how Mourinho deploys them, sit back, relax, and pinch yourself every now and then to ensure you're not dreaming.

Match Details