Roma’s chances at Champions League football through the league are dwindling each match day, and with that comes added pressure on the Giallorossi’s continuing Europa League campaign. Tomorrow’s home match against Bayer Leverkusen is only the first leg of the Europa League semi-final, but it will be critical for Roma to assert themselves quickly (if their lack of depth allows for it).
What To Watch For
Can Leonardo Spinazzola Redeem Himself?
It takes a very rare occurrence for one player to be entirely to blame for a loss, and while Leonardo Spinazzola’s performance against Inter Milan wasn’t the only reason why Roma lost their most recent Serie A match, his performance certainly didn’t help much. We should also couch his poor performance with the acknowledgment that the Giallorossi have been forced to put Spinny in as a right-back, playing the Italian international out of position and leaving him open to the physically imposing Denzel Dumfries. Still, a stinker of a performance can throw off even the best of players, and it’s an open question how much that poor performance might impact Spinazzola tomorrow against Leverkusen. Here’s what he had to say in the pre-match presser about his poor performance against Inter:
“It’s (the mistake I made against Dumfries) a mistake I’ve hardly made in the past. It was a mistake to want to attack the opponents and hurt them, but they hurt us. I wanted to anticipate a possible passage and he stole that meter by Dumfries. I’m sorry and I won’t do it again. I prefer on the left, but if nobody is on the right it’s normal that I play there”.
If you’re a player with the level of ability to be at a club like Roma, you have to have enough ego to push through and still believe in yourself after a poor match. I believe in Spinny, and I think he’ll make up for his poor performance tomorrow. That’s a good thing, and I encourage all of you to follow along with me in my belief in him, because considering how little depth Roma has at fullback at the moment, we don’t really have much of a choice.
How Much Will Paulo Dybala Play?
It’s been apparent from match day one of this season that Roma’s success hinges on the availability of Paulo Dybala. While the Giallorossi’s bevy of injuries this spring has certainly led to worse form than expected, there’s no doubt that Dybala’s niggling injuries have made it much harder for Roma to maintain the consistent form needed to compete on multiple fronts. With Dybala out or only half-available in recent weeks, the Giallorossi have suffered, going winless in their last four matches and finding themselves tied for sixth place where third place once seemed like a feasible goal.
The good news for Roma’s hopes for the 2023/2024 season is that key players like Paulo Dybala may be recovering just in time for one of their most critical matches left in the season. In his pre-match presser, José Mourinho was noncommittal about La Joya’s availability for tomorrow’s match, saying on both Dybala and Gini Wijnaldum:
“It’s difficult, I don’t mean impossible, but it’s difficult. The first thing is to know if they can play or not, we’ll see (that) tomorrow morning and then we’ll decide whether to let them start from the beginning or later. They are doing everything possible to recover, let’s prepare for the race with them and without them, then we’ll see”.
With journalists on the ground at Trigoria noting that Dybala trained with the group ahead of the showdown with Bayer, it seems practically guaranteed that Dybala will feature at least somewhat in tomorrow’s match. The question whose answer may determine Roma’s ability to advance to the Europa League final then becomes: just how much can he play, and at what level of his healthy ability? A near-healthy Dybala, or even a Dybala who can put in 70 minutes, has the maggica needed to push Roma ahead of Leverkusen, specifically a Leverkusen that will be missing former Roma man and reborn striker Patrik Schick. If Dybala is limited to playing as a super-sub, garnering only 20 or 30 minutes, the Giallorossi will need some serious help from their depleted squad.