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Roma Host Cagliari With Golden Opportunity in Fight for Champions League

It sure seems like Ago Di Bartolomei is smiling down on DDR’s time as manager. Will that continue?

AS Roma Training Session Photo by Luciano Rossi/AS Roma via Getty Images

Roma isn’t a club that’s necessarily known for its luck. From the constant ACL tears to the 2023 Europa League Final going down to... questionable penalties, it often feels like anything that can go wrong for the Giallorossi will go wrong. “Roma Happens” became a constant refrain for the English-speaking fans of I Lupi for good reason — the club frequently inhabits the space best described by Murphy’s Law: anything that can go wrong, will go wrong.

Now, even mentioning the idea that the Giallorossi might be turning over a new leaf in the luck department is clearly setting them up for failure tomorrow against Cagliari, and for that, I deeply apologize to Daniele De Rossi and the squad. Yet, in the weeks that have followed José Mourinho’s departure from Roma, it sure feels as if luck has been on the side of the wolves for once.

First, there’s the signing of Tommaso Baldanzi and Angeliño by Tiago Pinto on his way out the door; two bona fide wins in the transfer market that are low-risk, high-reward moves. Then there’s the fact that Roma has managed to win every match they’ve played since bringing in De Rossi; sure, those matches have been against subpar opponents, but still, three points are three points.

Just ask Fiorentina, Napoli, Lazio, and the other squads fighting for a Champions League spot how much you can’t take three points for granted. Fiorentina lost 3-2 to Lecce on Friday, and all the other sides in the hunt for top four/five football had similarly challenging matches that maybe shouldn’t have been so challenging. The parity in this part of the league has been critical for Roma’s ability to still fight for Champions League football.

With a match against Inter on the horizon that can be charitably described as a likely draw or loss, winning against Cagliari isn’t just a way to keep the good times rolling during De Rossi’s managerial tenure; it’s practically a must-win given the acknowledgment that the Giallorossi are simply outclassed by Inter this season.

What To Watch For

Angeliño to Start, Baldanzi as a Sub?

AS Roma Training Session Photo by Luciano Rossi/AS Roma via Getty Images

Roma’s two recent signings (sorry, Dean Huijsen, the luster is off your early January move at this point) present some intrigue for the Giallorossi’s starting eleven moving forward. While Tommaso Baldanzi was clearly brought in as one for the present and the future, Angeliño’s six-month loan means that the clock starts ticking now to figure out whether he’s worth the redemption fee Tiago Pinto included in the loan agreement with RB Leipzig.

With that in mind, it’s no surprise that the Giallorossi rumor mill is suggesting that Angeliño is already in line for his first start tomorrow against Cagliari; the options that Daniele De Rossi had at his disposal prior to Angeliño’s signing were underperforming at best and not up to the needed standard at worst, so there has to be some hope that maybe Roma’s new left wingback will revitalize a spot in the starting eleven that has been dead ever since Leonardo Spinazzola’s Euros 2021 injury.

Meanwhile, Tommaso Baldanzi is less likely to see the starting lineup immediately due to his youth and his status as a vice-Dybala, but that doesn’t mean the Italian U-21 international won’t get his fair share of minutes in the next few months. Like it or not, Paulo Dybala is not an iron man, and as a result, the role of vice-Dybala is one where repeated forays into the starting eleven are more than likely, they’re expected. I’m hopeful that Baldanzi will simply look like himself as a sub in tomorrow’s match; that will be a good enough start to things for his time in a Roma kit.

Can Roma Break Down Boris Radunovic?

Boris Radunovic of Cagliari Calcio holds the ball during the... Photo by Nicolò Campo/LightRocket via Getty Images

One of the ways that Roma always seems to happen is through the classic “middling goalkeeper turns into prime Gigi Buffon” scenario. It’s happened so many times in Roma matches that I’ve almost come to expect it. Tomorrow’s candidate to fill that role in the post-match “well, that was a disappointing 0-0 draw” review is one Boris Radunovic, a 27-year-old Serbian shot-stopper who moved to Cagliari after being an Atalanta loanee for the last several seasons.

To give Radunovic credit, he’s actually strung together a good season for Cagliari so far. His 7.2 WhoScored rating is the best in the Cagliari starting eleven, and there’s no doubt that without his work between the sticks, the Sardinian side would not be just outside of the relegation zone but so deep in it that Claudio Ranieri would need to prep for a return to Serie B. Yet for a side like Roma with aspirations of greatness, “the goalkeeper has been able to afford his team only 38 goals against through 22 matches” shouldn’t make Romelu Lukaku or Paulo Dybala quake in their boots. This should be an easy three points, plain and simple. Now excuse me while I go pet my lucky rabbit’s foot, go outside, turn around three times, and spit.

Match Details

Date: February 5th

Kickoff: 20:45 CET/2:45 EST

Venue: Stadio Olimpico, Roma