Back when I first started watching Roma in the mid-to-late 2000s, it felt like they were always a Coppa Italia contender—winning back-to-back trophies in 2007 and 2008. After adding that ninth piece of silverware to trophy case, it felt like a matter of time before the Giallorossi would become the first ten-time winner of Italy’s knockout competition. However, since losing the 2013 final to rivals Lazio, the Giallorossi haven’t even sniffed another final. And in that time Juve beat the Giallorossi to the ten time champion mark by winning their 10th in 2015.
If Roma is ever going to get back to lifting the Coppa, there may not be a clearer path to the final than this season. After defeating Genoa in the Round of 16, it looked like we’d be getting back-to-back matches with Napoli in the league and then Coppa quarterfinals. That was until the Partenopei were shockingly upset by bottom of the table Cremonese on penalties at the San Paolo in the Round of 16.
Roma vs. Cremonese: February 1st. 21:00 CET/3:00 EST. Stadio Olimpico, Roma.
It was a shocking result. And one that now makes Roma favorites in this round and in a potential semifinal against either Fiorentina or Torino after the Granata beat AC Milan. So, let’s prep for today’s match and see what some of the keys to victory will be.
What To Watch For
Will Felix Afena-Gyan Conjure Up More Magic?
The young Ghanian looked like a potential breakout star for José Mourinho’s Roma last season after being given a chance to make an impact in the second half. However, a potential star in the making became expendable in the summer when someone had to be sacrificed to bring in Andrea Belotti on a free transfer. Of course, before he was sent packing, Afena had one of the biggest impacts on Roma’s season that nobody saw coming.
Afena-Gyan broke Gini Wjinaldum’s leg in training, leaving the Giallorossi’s midfield looking for answers for much of the season. And now we’ve come full circle as Felix returns to the Olimpico to face the Giallorossi on the day after Wjinaldum returned to full group training.
Roma will hope that Felix doesn’t have the same impact that he did in Naples against his former employer. In the last round, he scored the game tying goal in the 87th minute to send the match to extra time. Then he scored the decisive penalty in Cremonese’s unexpected win.
We’ve jokingly been saying that Felix is still a secret Roma agent in doing their dirty work to avoid a second trip to Naples. All joking aside though, Roma will be wary of Felix doing his old side dirty with another match winning performance.
How Strong of a Line-Up Will Mourinho Field?
Sunday’s hard fought loss at the Diego Maradona may have felt like a moral victory for Mourinho and his troops based on what the Roma manager said post match. However, whether you view it as a simple loss in the standings or moral victory, it was a physically taxing match for the men on the pitch. It’s already been revealed that Leonardo Spinazzola has a thigh strain that will keep him out for weeks.
Meanwhile, Tammy Abraham and Nemanja Matic both left the match with minor issues. Luckily neither will miss any time, but it’s expected that both of them will be rested in this one. It’s also possible that captain Lorenzo Pellegrini could be handled cautiously after he’s been hampered by a niggling muscle issue for some time.
Mourinho will approach this match to win and won’t want to take Cremonese too lightly. So, don’t expect a completely turned over line-up. However, the fact that this is Cremonese and not Napoli should allow for a little more turnover than we probably would’ve seen against the league leaders.
Other candidates to be rested from the start include Paulo Dybala and Chris Smalling. Last round against Genoa both players were rested at the start, before the Argentine maestro came off the bench to score the match winner. If he’s rested again, it could create an opportunity to get Ola Solbakken his first start. Also, keep an eye to see if Wjinaldum makes the bench for this one or if Mourinho waits for Saturday against Empoli.
ROMA (3-4-2-1): Patricio; Ibañez, Kumbulla, Mancini; Zalewski, Bove, Cristante, Celik; El Shaarawy, Solbakken; Belotti