While it’s hard to be optimistic about the Giallorossi for fear of angering the gods or whoever cursed the training ground at Trigoria, things are looking pretty good for Roma at the moment. In Serie A, I Lupi are five points clear of fifth place with Milan and Inter crashing and burning, and injuries to Paulo Dybala and Tammy Abraham that at first appeared severe have proven minor enough that both players are expected to start tomorrow’s match against Feyenoord.
It certainly bodes well for Roma’s Europa League hopes that Abraham and Dybala are available; being down 1-0 headed into the home match certainly isn’t insurmountable, but it does put Roma at a disadvantage from minute one. Yet this isn’t a new position for the Giallorossi, and in fact, it’s one from which they have shown an ability to consistently push through and win. In the last three European cup ties where Roma has entered the second leg down a goal, Mourinho’s men have ended up progressing further into the competition each time. Now go knock on some wood so I don’t feel like I just jinxed the Giallorossi. I know I will.
Last Time Around: Feyenoord 1 - 0 Roma
The first half of this tie was unimpressive, to say the least. The difference maker for Feyenoord was Mats Weiffer (who, coincidentally, is out for tomorrow’s match), as his volley from outside the box in the 53rd minute proved enough due to a flubbed penalty from Lorenzo Pellegrini. Here’s what José Mourinho had to say about this upcoming match in the post-match interview from the away tie:
“I am optimistic but obviously I’m worried about Sunday because we’re a team with limits. And when you lose players – I’m not going to call them ‘important’ players because the whole team is important – but when you lose players your options are reduced. And that’s obviously a cause for concern. But the lads always give everything.
“Of course we don’t think we deserved to lose but undeserved is not a word I like to use in football. We’ve lost the first half 1-0 and we’re playing the second half in Rome. But we’re not playing Feyenoord on Sunday; we’re playing Udinese and it’s Udinese we need to focus on now.”
What To Watch For
How Much Paulo Dybala Will We See?
The availability of Paulo Dybala was an open question in the lead-up to this match, and while thankfully it appears that the Argentinian superstar will be available, the first match after a spell on the sidelines due to injury (even a short one such as this) always comes with a lot of questions. If Feyenoord are able to play a strong defensive match against Roma for the first sixty minutes, Dybala’s magic could be the difference-maker for the Giallorossi - and you certainly want him on the pitch if this one goes to penalties. On the other hand, every minute you force Dybala to push himself is a minute where a minor injury could be compounded into a major one. What do you do if you’re José Mourinho?
Thankfully, I am not José Mourinho, because I certainly don’t have a clue if the best plan is to have Dybala start or come off the bench in this one. Regardless of what Mourinho chooses to do with his lineup, I expect to see Dybala as a difference-maker tomorrow. Let’s just hope that it’s his presence that causes the difference, and not his absence.
Is an Abraham-aissance Incoming?
When Paulo Dybala joined up with Roma, Tammy Abraham quipped that there was room for two kings in Rome. Unfortunately, Abraham’s form this season hasn’t exactly been royal after that soundbite, with the English striker only scoring eight goals in 42 appearances across all competitions this season. Nobody’s been more disappointed by this than Abraham himself, as he missed out on a chance to represent England at the World Cup and has seen similarly goal-shy Andrea Belotti get chances in his role in the starting eleven as of late. Still, there were thankfully signs of life from Tammy Two Goals last weekend against Udinese, as Abraham came on in the 75th minute and promptly ended Udinese’s hopes of salvaging points from Matchday XXX with a stoppage time goal.
As the Giallorossi get deeper into the Europa League and continue fighting for Champions League qualification on two fronts, it’s going to be critical for all of Roma’s offensive weapons to be firing on all cylinders. Strikers are notoriously streaky players - one goal can completely overturn months of bad form. Let’s hope that Tammy’s goal against Udinese is that goal for him. If it is, the end of Roma’s season will be ten times easier.