Tick tock, tick tock. Time marches on, and although Roma and Fiorentina both have their eyes on their respective European finals, there is the simple matter of an actual league match between them that’s taking place at the Stadio Artemio Franchi tomorrow. José Mourinho rightfully complained about Juventus’ 10-point deduction being handed down right before the last matchday, saying that if he had thought Top Four football was more achievable through the league, he wouldn’t have instituted such deep rotations for the last few Serie A matches.
Yet that’s water under the bridge now, and while there is a distinct possibility that the Giallorossi could still get Champions League football through the league, the upcoming Europa League Final has to be the main priority. With that comes extended rest for a series of Roma players, including Lorenzo Pellegrini, Bryan Cristante, Paulo Dybala, Rui Patricio, and Tammy Abraham. Fiorentina will undoubtedly rotate as well, as their quest for European football through the league is over, so while this match may not be a slugfest between stars, it’s still some calcio to watch on Memorial Day Weekend. I’ll take that.
Last Time Around: Roma 2 - 0 Fiorentina
Compared to how the Giallorossi are expected to line up tomorrow, Roma’s last match against Fiorentina was a veritable star-studded event. Paulo Dybala and Tammy Abraham powered Roma to a 2-0 win, with Abraham assisting Dybala twice and extending a five-game winning streak for I Lupi. That clean sheet Roma garnered against Fiorentina was a continuation of a theme for the Giallorossi this season, in the sense that while Roma’s attack has often been questionable, the defense has persisted and kept Roma alive in the league and the Europa League.
Much was made in pre-season about the potential firepower of the Giallorossi’s attacking options, and goals like Dybala’s show how potent Roma’s attack can be when everything starts to click with this squad. Of course, this also is just another example of Paulo Dybala doing Paulo Dybala things, creating a moment of magic like only he can.
But, as we’ve seen so very often throughout this campaign, the Giallorossi seemingly enjoy playing with fire, and so despite the man-advantage, Roma were content to cede possession to Fiorentina and look to hit on the counter. And while that is this team’s bread-and-butter, it made for some nervy moments as Fiorentina pushed for an equalizer.
It was a little nervy at times, but Roma accomplished exactly what it needed to in this one, winning at home and keeping pace in the race for top-four. The Abraham-Dybala connection was at its potent best, and getting an in-form Tammy for the second half of the season is quite the tantalizing proposition as Roma eye a return to the Champions League.
What To Watch For
The Svilar Show Continues
With Rui Patricio once again set to be rested in the lead-up to the Europa League final, Mile Svilar is getting another chance to assert himself as Roma’s goalkeeper of the future. In my book, Svilar has impressed in his limited appearances, particularly the several appearances he has garnered since Mourinho instituted his heavy rotation plans for the end of this season. He’s obviously not the finished article just yet, and there’s no guarantee he’ll become a Rui Patricio or (please, Totti) the next Alisson Becker, but low-stakes yet quality-opponent matches like this one are going to make it ten times easier for José Mourinho to determine Svilar’s future role at the club, in a way that summer friendlies never could.
Svilar’s father was recently asked about his son’s future at the club, and his response was interesting for those looking to predict the future of the Giallorossi’s starting goalkeeper sweepstakes:
“A loan wouldn’t be a bad idea, but we don’t want to let him go. Mourinho absolutely wants to keep Mile and says he will have his chance.”
Well, Mile is definitely getting his chance right now, and although my heart still would love to see Marco Carnesecchi in a Roma goalkeeper kit, given Roma’s Financial Fair Play issues, I won’t begrudge the concept that maybe, just maybe, “We have Marco Carnesecchi at home.”
Andrea Belotti’s Last Dance?
While tomorrow might be one chance among many for Mile Svilar, there’s no doubt that for Andrea Belotti, it’s one of his last chances in a Giallorossi kit. Il Gallo has been unimpressive with Roma, as he still hasn’t scored a league goal this season and has often been a black hole at the top of the attack, yet we all know that deep down, there is still a former capocannoniere and Azzurri starter in there.
It’s an open question why Belotti has been so mediocre for the Giallorossi; it could just be Father Time, it could be the age-old story of a player joining a bigger club and not having the talent necessary to succeed there, it could just be absurdly bad luck. In all honesty, I don’t have a serious theory here, but for the sake of the man Andrea Belotti, I hope that he can score at least one league goal this season. It may not result in him staying on with the Giallorossi for the 2023-2024 season, but it could make his situation seem slightly less pathetic.