So far this season, Roma has accomplished the minimum expected of a side that now finds itself oozing with talent and long-term potential: they’ve beaten the smaller clubs and held onto clean sheets. With tomorrow’s match against Juventus, the Giallorossi are facing the first true challenge of their season, and one that will be made even more potent due to the return of Paulo Dybala to his former club.
If I Lupi are able to handle Juventus with ease, despite lacking Gini Wijnaldium and Nicolò Zaniolo, Romanisti can begin to dream big about the club’s prospects for this season. A draw, while far more likely, would tell us next to nothing, and a loss will certainly send Romanisti hopes back down to earth faster than you can say “Where’s Andrea Belotti?”
What To Watch For
A Homecoming for Paulo Dybala
Of course, the biggest story from a neutral perspective for this match will be the return of Roma’s new star signing, Paulo Dybala, to Juventus Stadium. Dybala is one of the most iconic players of the 21st century for Juventus; the club that was his home for seven seasons gave him the #10 kit of Alessandro Del Piero, after all, and I would argue that he lived up to that honor. It will undoubtedly be an emotional affair for Dybala and Juventini, and you have to imagine that The Old Lady will pay him some respect before the match.
From a Romanisti perspective, however, you have to imagine that Dybala will feel a strong incentive to make the Juventini brass regret not paying him as he entered free agency. Sure, he’ll always have a special place in his heart for Juventus, but how can The Old Lady’s management justify discarding Dybala over injury concerns and then signing the likes of Paul Pogba and Angel Di Maria?
If Dybala can score against his old club, he’ll undoubtedly be respectful, but it would be sweet for Roma and La Joya if he opened his Serie A account with the Giallorossi in that fashion.
Who Fits In The Double Pivot Now?
Gini Wijnaldium’s injury has put a massive hitch in Roma’s plans for the first half of the Serie A season. With the timeline for his non-surgical recovery from breaking his tibia looking to be around three months, Roma’s once best-in-class midfield is quite a bit shakier than it was before the first match day. When combined with Nicolò Zaniolo’s dislocated shoulder pushing Lorenzo Pellegrini back up the pitch, it’s clear that José Mourinho will have to be clever with his preferred midfield pivot for the next few weeks.
The rumored signing of Mady Camara from Olympiacos could do a lot to provide further midfield depth behind Bryan Cristante and Nemanja Matić, but that signing isn’t actually done yet. Does that mean the first midfield substitute against Juventus might be Edoardo Bove? That’d be my guess, and with Mourinho probably looking to keep Matić fit for the entire season, I’d venture as far as to predict that by the 60th minute, Romanisti will be seeing a Cristante-Bove double-pivot behind Paulo Dybala and Lorenzo Pellegrini. Obviously, I’m crushed that the Giallorossi will be without the services of a world-class midfielder like Wijnaldium for the extended future, but I’m also intrigued by the chance it affords Bove. Who knows what might happen next if the Italian U-21 international impresses over the next few months?
Injuries seem to be a perpetual part of following Roma. Here’s hoping that the strong team mentality Roma has shown these past few months translates to a “next man up” mentality in the midfield. If it does, maybe the Giallorossi won’t miss Gini Wijnaldium as much as some might have feared.