There’s no other way to slice it or dice it: Roma had a nightmare of a match against Cremonese in the midweek, giving the 20th-placed side its first win of the season in Serie A and its second win over the Giallorossi, including their recent Coppa Italia tie. I don’t have too many things to say about that match beyond an exasperated sigh, and fortunately, the Serie A calendar is marching on, leading us to a far more marquee matchup for the Giallorossi that will hopefully garner a more positive result.
Since I became a Romanista, I’ve always anticipated Roma’s matches against Juventus nearly as much as I’ve anticipated the Derby della Capitale, and sometimes, I’ve anticipated these matches more. Particularly at the height of the Pallotta Era, Juventus-Roma matches were heavyweight bouts, the two clear best sides in Serie A squaring off only for Juventus to usually win on some, uh, suspect refereeing decision. I’m not bitter! (I’m a little bitter.)
Roma vs. Juventus: March 5th. 20:45 CET/2:45 EST. Stadio Olimpico, Roma.
The luster of the match is off a bit this year, as Juventus have been handed a major points deduction due to some questionable business decisions. Don’t let that fool you, though; the players who wear the black-and-white stripes are still world-class, and they’ll give Roma a headache if the Giallorossi don’t apply five times as much mental confidence as they displayed against Cremonese.
I’m starting to feel like a broken record when I talk about the importance of these matches for Roma, but they are all truly critical. With only six points separating second and sixth prior to this match day, this is without a doubt one of the tightest seasons in recent Serie A history for every club outside of first place. Despite some injury troubles and a limited transfer spend, the Giallorossi find themselves tantalizingly close to a Champions League spot for the 2023-2024 season.
While there is still the possibility that Roma could qualify for the Champions League by winning the Europa League this season, I’d feel much more comfortable heading into a potential EL final knowing that CL football has already been secured, and with that, the continued employment of Paulo Dybala and José Mourinho by The Friedkin Group.
August 27, 2022: Juventus 1, Roma 1
Here’s what we said about Mourinho’s men following their last match against Juventus, a 1-1 draw:
That wasn’t a pretty match, to put it mildly. In the first half, Roma looked poorer than I’ve seen them in quite some time; Dušan Vlahović’s howitzer of a free kick in the second minute clearly deflated the squad, and although a goal from Tammy Abraham transformed what looked guaranteed to become a loss into a draw, there is certainly room for improvement for Mourinho’s men after this performance. This side certainly looks poorer without Gini Wijnaldum and Nicolò Zaniolo, but at the very least, Roma showed they can grind out a draw when it’s vital—something that has eluded this team in many a season past.
The good news is that Gini Wijnaldum is back in the fold; the... okay? news is that we’re no longer expecting Nicolò Zaniolo to be a savior for this side.
What To Watch For
Will Lorenzo Pellegrini Start?
It’s been an odd season for Roma’s captain. There have been moments of sheer brilliance from Lorenzo Pellegrini and moments where I’ve quite honestly wondered if Lolo deserves to be in the starting eleven consistently. Granted, Pellegrini has had a more injury-ridden season than he usually does, and it’s also true that out of all of Roma’s players, José Mourinho seems far more likely to try to run Pellegrini into the ground. Still, Pellegrini’s form has been off in recent weeks, with signs pointing towards niggling injury concerns keeping him from displaying his true ability.
The good news there is that reports coming out of Trigoria suggest that Pellegrini has been training with the full squad and is ready to play at full strength against Juventus tomorrow. Even though José Mourinho’s suspension due to his tiff with a referee during the Cremonese match was rescinded, Roma will need all the leadership presence they can muster on the pitch to get a positive result against Juventus.
I’ve got faith that Pellegrini will show his stuff against Juventus tomorrow; he does seem to rise to the occasion when the Giallorossi host Juventus, and you have to imagine that having a sold-out Stadio Olimpico singing his praises will do wonders for his form.
Can Anyone Contain Juve’s Attack?
As I mentioned before, Juventus’ points deduction has somewhat masked the fact that The Old Lady’s squad is just as loaded as ever this season. Even looking past the obvious stars like Dušan Vlahović, Angel Di Maria has had an explosive past month of football, including a hat-trick against FC Nantes to propel Juventus into the knockout rounds of the Europa League alongside Roma. Simply put, the Juventus attack is everything that Roma thought her attack would be coming into this season: multifaceted, a mix of young stars on the rise and established veterans, and among the deepest in Europe.
For Roma to successfully counteract this strong attack, it will take deep levels of determination from Roma’s stalwarts in the back line. I’m at the point where I don’t really trust Rui Patricio (please, please sign Marco Carnesecchi this summer, Tiago Pinto), but I still have massive amounts of trust in Chris Smalling, Gianluca Mancini, and Roger Ibañez. Roma looks as if they’ll be without Chris Smalling in the starting lineup again, resulting in another chance for Marash Kumbulla; one has to hope that he can take that opportunity and run with it, and the trio of Kumbulla, Mancini, and Ibañez end up silencing The Old Lady. If they don’t, it’s going to be a long Sunday evening.