After perhaps the most exhausting silly season I've endured as a Roma fan and writer, we’ve reached the light at the end of the tunnel: the season is here. The transfer market may not be officially closed for another couple of weeks—and Tiago Pinto still has to complete Roma’s roster for the long and grueling season ahead—but the season beginning gives us a sense of hope; hope that our beloved Giallorossi can achieve something special.
And with The Special One in charge, special things have happened in the Italian Capital over the last two seasons. First, it was a Conference League trophy, then a trip to the Europa League final that nearly resulted in consecutive European titles. However, the ultimate goal, or should we say the minimum goal should be a return to the Champions League.
Considering how tight the race for the top four promises to be, with six to eight sides competing for those four spots, Roma must be more consistent. And that consistency needs to start Sunday when Roma hosts Salernitana at the Stadio Olimpico.
Roma defeated Salernitana 1-0 in last season's opener in Campania, so let's see what they have to do to repeat that result and take three points from the Granata.
Keep An Eye On
Roma enters this match down two key players due to suspension. Both Lorenzo Pellegrini and Paulo Dybala are suspended due to receiving their fifth yellow card in the final match of the 2022-2023 season. Without them, Roma has some big shoes to fill in attack, where it’ll likely fall on Stephan El Shaarawy and newcomer Houssem Aouar to provide the main support for Roma’s striker.
And speaking of strikers, let’s not forget that Tammy Abraham will be sidelined for at least six months as he recovers from a torn ACL suffered in that same last match of the season. With Abraham out and no replacement yet signed, the bulk of the goalscoring expectation falls on the shoulders of Andrea Belotti. The veteran Italian striker is coming off a miserable season in which he scored zero league goals. However, without another striker on the roster, Belotti has an opportunity to show Mourinho that he should be Roma’s starter no matter who else they may sign.
And speaking of Mourinho, the Roma tactician is also suspended to start the season. This is nothing new and normally wouldn’t be an issue, as Mourinho was suspended a handful of times before. However, top assistant Salvatore Foti is also suspended. With Pellegrini and Dybala joining Mourinho in the stands, Roma will be missing their leaders on the pitch and touchline.
There’s nothing like a home-field advantage in sports. A place where opposing sides fear coming to play. And anyone who's been to a sold-out Olimpico, or at least seen it on television, knows that a raucous Stadio Olimpico can instill fear in opponents, just ask Barcelona.
Thanks to the running track, fans aren't right on the pitch like an English-style ground, but the Olimpico can still get loud. And Sunday's match against Salernitana will be Roma's 34th straight sell-out under Mourinho's watch, so the atmosphere should be magical, even if it hasn't always led to three points.
Last season, Roma had 11 wins, 3 draws, and 5 losses at home. Meanwhile, the season before, it was 10 wins, 6 draws, and 3 losses. In both seasons, that was good for just 36 of a possible 57 points at home. The Giallorossi need to do better than that, given how difficult it is to win on the road against some of the league’s top sides. It’s time for Mourinho’s men to turn the Olimpico back into a fortress-like in 2016-2017 when the Giallorossi went 16 wins, 1 draw, and 2 losses. That mission starts Sunday.
Getting Off to a Fast Start
When considering how tight the race for the top four will be, it’s imperative that Roma gets off to a fast start. Dropping points against inferior opponents could hurt the Giallorossi later in the season, so anything less than a win on Sunday will be a disappointment.
In fact, this is the first in a string of very favorable matches for the Giallorossi, including Verona (A), Milan (H), Empoli (H), Torino (A), Genoa (A), Frosinone (H), Cagliari (A), Monza (H)
Apart from the match against Milan, none of Roma's first nine opponents, including Salernitnana tomorrow, qualified for any European competitions. One-third of those matches are against the newly promoted sides (GEN, FRO, CAG), and three others are against sides that could battle relegation (SAL, VER, EMP). Roma must take advantage and pile up the points early in the season.
Roma (3-5-2): Rui Patricio; Mancini, Smalling, Llorente; Kristensen, Bove, Cristante, Aouar, Zalewski; El Shaarawy, Belotti.