There was a time when the Coppa Italia held a lot of juice for most Roma fans. With the Giallorossi proudly boasting nine titles to their credit, the capital club was in a race with Juventus to become the first team to claim 10 Coppa Italia titles and the mythical silver star that came along with it. After winning back-to-back titles in 2007 and 2008, Roma had two more cracks at the elusive 10th title: A 1-0 loss to Inter Milan in 2010 and the infamous 1-0 defeat to city rivals Lazio in 2013.
Whether it was because they failed to land that 10th title or silly little matters like crashing out of the tournament at the hands of lowly Spezia (twice), some fans find it hard to get jazzed for cup fixtures, at least in the early rounds. Nevertheless, progressing in the tournament and potentially winning it would be a feather in Roma's cap, so let's take a quick look at tomorrow's Round of 16 fixture against Serie B side Cremonese.
Keep An Eye On
As the sixth-place side in Italy's second tier, US Cremonese isn't exactly a topic of conversation around most dinner tables. However, the Grigiorossi have a pair of faces familiar to long-time Serie A fans, including one that goes back to the days when Palermo, in all their pink-kitted finery, was dancing in the top flight.
The 34-year-old Argentine attacker was a bit of a late bloomer but made a name for himself with Palermo during the 2014-2015 season when he bagged 10 goals and chipped in 10 assists, making him one of only four players to crack the double-double year, including a young Paulo Dybala, who poured in 13 goals while providing 10 assists for Palermo; Domenico Berardi and Antonio Cassano rounded out the double-double club that season.
Vazquez nearly repeated the feat the following season, scoring eight goals and providing seven assists in league play. Thanks to this torrid run, Vazquez earned a €16.8 million move to Sevilla, where he scored 18 goals and provided 14 assists in 140 La Liga matches between 2016 and 2021.
Vazquez returned to Italy two seasons ago and has made mincemeat out of Serie B defense since then, scoring 26 goals in 89 appearances for Parma and Cremonese. Through 19 appearances this season, Vazquez is second on the team in goal-scoring contributions (1G, 5A).
For what it's worth, Vazquez has only scored once against Roma, a 2-1 win on May 31, 2015. The other two goal scorers that day... Francesco Totti and Andrea Belotti.
A more recent Roma tormentor, the 26-year-old Nigerian forward scored 14 Serie A goals between the 2021-2022 and 2022-2023 seasons, including two decisive goals against the Giallorossi: a 74th-minute match winner in Venezia's 3-2 victory over Roma in November 2021 and a 1st-minute header in a 1-1 draw in May 2022.
Okereke has only played 510 minutes this season, but he's been remarkably effective, chalking up two goals and an assist in limited playing time.
Will Roma Rotate?
With the sting of yet another defeat at the hands of the Old Lady and a crucial match against 7th-place Atalanta set for Sunday evening, José Mourinho will have to be judicious with his selections tomorrow. While there are certain positions with which he has no choice (Hi, Lukaku!), the Special One will likely lean on seldom-seen faces like Rick Karsdorp, Mile Svilar, Leonardo Spinazzola, and Zeki Celik tomorrow. However, we can't even rule out a spot for Primavera grads like Riccardo Pagano or Niccolo Pisilli.
Date: January 3, 2024
Kickoff: 21:00 CET/3:00 EST
Venue: Stadio Olimpico, Roma