Roma’s 1-0 victory over Bayer Leverkusen in the first leg of the Europa League semifinal was just what the doctor ordered for Romanisti everywhere. A multitude of injury problems decimating Roma’s senior squad has effectively taken away the Giallorossi’s chance of qualifying for the Champions League through Serie A; by contrast, José Mourinho’s men just need to maintain their goal advantage over Leverkusen and then win one more match to win another trophy and book their ticket to the Champions League group stage for 2023/2024.
Despite it becoming evident that Roma’s chances for glory this season will not be found in Serie A, there are still a good number of Serie A matches left before the domestic league calls it quits. Given Roma’s particular situation, that means that matches like tomorrow’s against Bologna will largely become opportunities for rotation and first chances for Primavera graduates.
I won’t dare to predict what the result of those rotations might be, even though Bologna is in tenth place and has nothing left to gain from the remainder of this Serie A season. Yet matches like these can signal to Romanisti who might be the next player to emerge from the bench or Federico Guidi’s side, and for that alone, I find them to be worth the price of admission.
January 4th: Roma 1, Bologna 0
The Winter World Cup still feels like a fever dream to me, so it was a trip to realize that not only did it take place nearly half a year ago, Roma’s last match against Bologna was the first match following that World Cup break. That match gave Roma three necessary points during the still-ongoing hunt for Champions League qualification, with a penalty goal from Lorenzo Pellegrini being the ultimate difference maker. Add in the fact that the Giallorossi were without manager José Mourinho, who was serving a two-match ban at the time, and on the whole Romanisti were satisfied with this win.
What To Watch For
Miles and Miles of Mile Svilar
The most consistent rumor concerning Roma’s lineup tomorrow is that under-fire starting goalkeeper Rui Patricio will get the night off, giving Belgian backup and former young stud Mile Svilar another chance to prove himself as a potential long-term solution in goal for José Mourinho. Svilar has been unimpressive to date when given the chance to start between the sticks, but as with every position in football, so much of a goalkeeper’s form is determined by continual usage. Although tomorrow’s match against Bologna isn’t the most high-stakes situation Svilar could be thrown into (that would be a Europa League final, and Sweet Totti I hope Patricio is up and in-form for that if it happens) a strong performance could mean that Tiago Pinto may be slightly less focused on bringing in someone like Cremonese’s Marco Carnesecchi or Empoli’s Guglielmo Vicario. No pressure, Mile.
Who’s The Next Primavera Stud?
While the rest of Roma’s starting eleven tomorrow is expected to be filled with senior players (albeit senior players who might often start on the bench), it is critical to note that José Mourinho has called up a surprising number of Primavera players for the match as well. With Paulo Dybala, Rui Patricio, Chris Smalling, Diego Llorente, Rick Karsdorp, and Stephan El Shaarawy all out against Bologna, the following Primavera players have been brought into the senior squad:
- Goalkeeper Jacopo Del Bello;
- Fullback Filippo Missori;
- Defensive midfielder Giacomo Faticanti;
- Fullback Matteo Falasca;
- Centerback Dimitrios Keramitsis; and
- Forward Jordan Majchrzak.
That’s a lot of young guns, and to be honest, there are a couple in there who I wasn’t really thinking of as ready for prime time! Still, I’ve long believed that one of the (several) issues holding Serie A back is the fact that managers are disincentivized from promoting and nurturing academy graduates: the leash is often so tight on a manager that they would rather run with older players who are guaranteed to be mediocre instead of trying out younger players who might be excellent or might be terrible.
Given Roma’s injury crisis and proper prioritization of the Europa League, Mourinho has essentially been painted into a corner in this situation, but still, as Chiesa Di Totti’s #1 believer in giving Primavera kids a chance, I’ll admit that I’m excited to see who might get some sub minutes tomorrow. Who knows, maybe I’ll be typing the last name Majchrzak correctly without consulting Google by the time fall rolls around.