Not to be the Lupo who cried wolf, but tomorrow’s match against Inter Milan is the most important match the Giallorossi have left in the league schedule, and it could be the most influential match they have had in quite some time. Win here and Champions League qualification becomes much easier; win here, and you can probably keep the bulk of your squad and work to improve it this offseason. Lose, and... well, let’s not think about that too much just yet.
There’s not much more to say about this one than that, so let’s take a look at Roma’s last matchup with Inter in the hopes that we’ll see history repeat itself, only this time with the crowd at the Stadio Olimpico cheering on the squad.
October 1, 2022: Inter 1, Roma 2
Roma’s first match of the season against Inter was a win brought to you by two of Roma’s most important players, with Chris Smalling and Paulo Dybala punishing Inter with a world-class header and a stupendous volley kick, respectively. The Giallorossi stealing three points from Inter at the San Siro was a major step for Mourinho’s men, as it allowed them to keep pushing for Champions League qualification despite remaining in sixth place after the end of the match day. Here’s what we had to say in our post-match coverage:
Going into the break on a poor run of form and off the back of a tough loss to Atalanta, it was absolutely vital for Roma to hit the ground running in their return to action, particularly against an Inter Milan side that’s had Roma’s number as of late. And while it wasn’t the best performance by any means, the Giallorossi finally got the monkey off their back and upset Inter at the San Siro.
Paulo Dybala is worth his weight in gold. No matter the price, no matter the contract length, no matter the hidden bonuses, Roma’s investment in the 28-year-old Argentinian attacker was worth the cost. With four goals and two assists in his first eight appearances for his new club, Dybala is already paying dividends.
And in what is quickly becoming a weekly occurrence, Dybala pulled Roma’s feet from the fire last night at the San Siro, leveling the match with a stunning left-footed volley in the 39th minute, giving the Giallorossi the boost they so desperately needed heading into the second half.
What To Watch For
Get a Win, Keep Mourinho?
There’s a lot riding on this season for Roma, even beyond bragging rights. We’re in year two of the José Mourinho Experience, and while year one did nab Roma the first-ever Europa Conference League trophy when you hire a manager like Mourinho, the expectation is that you’ll be playing in the Champions League sooner rather than later. If Roma misses the Champions League next season, the rumor mill is suggesting that Mourinho will likely leave town (and potentially take the likes of Paulo Dybala and Gini Wijnaldum with him).
As mentioned previously, this match against Mourinho’s former employer is a critical one for the Giallorossi’s hunt for Serie A qualification for the Champions League; with Inter two points ahead of Roma in the table, a win against Inter would be truly massive for the club. A loss would be equally fatal, even if it would be understandable given Roma’s major injury crisis. It doesn’t get much simpler than that, but on the flip side, it doesn’t get much more poetic than Mourinho and company getting a chance to get even more glory by taking down Mou’s old boss.
Is It Cristian Volpato’s Moment?
Well, I certainly hope it is, and not just because of Roma’s injury crisis. Just like in Roma’s midweek match against Monza, the Giallorossi are likely to be without Marash Kumbulla, Diego Llorente, Rick Karsdorp, Chris Smalling, Gini Wijnaldum, and Paulo Dybala. Add on the injury that Stephan El Shaarawy suffered against Monza and the card suspension Zeki Çelik will be serving tomorrow, and it’s clear that Roma is running on fumes at the moment. With all those absences, it’s clear that the side will need an injection of something to win against Inter, particularly in the forward lineup.
You all know that I’m a big believer in Cristian Volpato, and although he hasn’t had a meteoric rise into superstardom this season, he has consistently put in good shifts as a forward under José Mourinho. Even though Andrea Belotti is back to training with the squad following a reported broken rib, I don’t have much trust in him to break his goalless streak in Serie A against Inter of all clubs.
Similarly, while I do believe the best is yet to come from Tammy Abraham, I don’t trust him in his current form to push Roma past the Nerazzurri. Volpato, though? A goal against a giant of Italian football could send his name into the stars while giving Roma a chance at developing another high-potential academy graduate into a key player for the starting eleven (which never hurts in today’s Financial Fair Play climate).
Is my hope that Volpato could start and score in this match a little ridiculous? Yes, but let’s be honest: we’re all fans of Roma. We’re fans of a club that sometimes makes you feel like you’re rooting for Charlie Brown as he’s trying to kick Lucy’s football.
I gotta hope for something, and for the moment, hoping Volpato works.