The unfortunate reality of most early Europa League matches is that there’s no way for a side like Roma to impress; a win is expected. A loss, though? As we’ve seen in European competitions for as long as I can remember, there are a million different ways for Roma to lose, each more infuriating than the last. The one-two punch of the Giallorossi’s embarrassing 4-0 loss to Udinese and their 2-1 loss to Ludogorets in the first match of the Europa League will sting for quite some time. Still, Romanisti must remember that two losses don’t fundamentally doom a season.
Three losses, though? That would be a very concerning trend for I Lupi and José Mourinho. You can bet your bottom dollar that the Giallorossi will come out swinging tomorrow against 15th-placed Empoli. In the lead-up to this match, Empoli manager Paolo Zanetti was quick to praise Roma and its manager, saying:
“We respect Roma but we don’t want to set-up a barricade... It’s going to be a very tough game, Roma have champions in their team and they’re going to enter very angered because of what’s gone on the past week. But we have to play our game but also keep in mind we’re developing the foundations for our future.”
Although Zanetti will look to Udinese’s dominant win against Roma for ways to silence the Giallorossi’s attacking players, I will never be surprised to see a smaller Serie A side park the bus against a larger club; I hope that Zanetti is right that the Giallorossi are angry. They should be; they’ve let themselves down over the past week and let down the fans who have made every match a sell-out so far this season. A nice 2-0 or 3-0 win against Empoli will quickly right the ship and reset the mood around Rome; quite frankly, I don’t want to know what another loss will do to the Roman atmosphere.
What To Watch For
Is It Camara Time?
A seemingly perpetual theme for the Giallorossi, the midfield has been a major area needing player improvement and overall rotation. You can’t accuse Tiago Pinto of not supplying appropriate and ready reinforcements in midfield; the signings of Gini Wijnaldum, Nemanja Matić, and Mady Camara made it clear that developing actual midfield depth was the main priority of the summer mercato. Yet the combination of Wijnaldum’s tibia fracture with the need for Mady Camara to get up to speed with Roma’s tactics has forced José Mourinho to play with a Bryan Cristante/Nemanja Matić double pivot, to mixed results.
The good news is that many sources in Italy are saying that Camara is finally ready to start a match, which will allow the Giallorossi to rediscover a semblance of midfield rotation and allow for Cristante and an aging Matić not to shoulder the entire burden. While Camara is not ready to play a full 90, even getting 60 to 70 minutes out of the Guinean will hopefully do wonders for Roma’s ability to dominate the midfield. Add in another good performance from Edoardo Bove off the bench, and who knows, maybe Roma will stop missing Gini Wijnaldum as much as they currently do.
Will Injury Returns Help the Giallorossi?
Mady Camara’s slow progress towards being able to play a full match will no doubt help Roma’s ability to play to their standard across multiple competitions. Still, even beyond that, the Giallorossi look as if they will be receiving additional reinforcements with the returns of Tammy Abraham and Rick Karsdorp from injury. Karsdorp, in particular, hasn’t impressed so far this season, and his error against Udinese will play in both my and his nightmares for months to come.
Despite that error, Romanisti shouldn’t be too surprised that Roma wasn’t as impressive as we know it can be with Abraham and Karsdorp gone. They were Mourinho’s two most-used players last season for a reason, and with their rotation options still learning to gel with the side, there was bound to be a quality drop-off with both of them missing the trip to Ludogorets.
The hope for Roma has to be that Karsdorp and Abraham will quickly and confidently slot back into their roles in the starting eleven against Empoli and that Karsdorp, in particular, will be able to put his poor form in recent matches behind him. If they can do that, the Giallorossi should feel confident that three points are within reach tomorrow.