It was a dull week as Italians do not bother working around the 15th of August, but Roma dominated the news in the last two days, announcing three extensions: Nicolò Zaniolo, Cengiz Under and Edin Dzeko. The first two were expected, as Zaniolo had been playing on a minimal contract after last summer’s move directly from Inter’s youth academy, and Under is a big part of the plan, while the third one came out of the blue since Dzeko has been long expected to move to Inter, but he will stick around instead, removing one end of the supposed strikers’ carousel. Continue reading
Over the years, Roma have consistently sold the side’s best performers due to constraints imposed by Financial Fair Play. This past summer has been no different in the nation’s capital. Kostas Manolas is already on his way to Napoli, while Edin Dzeko to Inter seems to be a mere formality. Despite the need to balance the books, the giallorossi have still managed to put together an impressive team, and frankly, are a few additions away from being a bonafide top four side next season.
After hiring Paulo Fonseca, a young and progressive tactician, Roma wasted no time and secured Napoli regista Amadou Diawara in the Manolas deal. For just under 20 million euros, the giallorossi signed one of Italy’s most promising young midfielders, and an ideal talent to play at the base of Fonseca’s 4-3-3. Diawara struggled for consistent playing time at Napoli, but will use this move as an opportunity to recreate his past form.
Alongside Diawara, two of Lorenzo Pellegrini, Nicolo Zaniolo and Bryan Cristante will likely feature. After an initial rough patch, Pellegrini has demonstrated he has what it takes to play for a top club, and has developed into a real menace between the lines in the final third. It also remains to be seen how Fonseca will fit Zaniolo in his setup, but he would compliment Diawara and Pellegrini nicely in a midfield three.
With newcomer Leonardo Spinazzola and club bandiera Alessandro Florenzi getting forward with regularity, expect free-flowing football at the Stadio Olimpico next season. However, for this to happen, Spinazzola will need to stay fit while Florenzi will need to up his game after a sub-par season.
In addition, young players like Cengiz Under and Justin Kluivert will be given a new lease on life under Fonseca and will be encouraged to express themselves to the fullest. Under has displayed his talent in glimpses, but needs to maintain his form over the course of an entire season if he’s to be relied upon. Kluivert, by contrast, had an indifferent first season with Roma and will be looking to redeem himself, especially if Stephan El Shaarawy leaves for China as it’s being reported.
Patrik Schick is another player who could benefit from Fonseca’s appointment. Since arriving at the club, the Czech international has looked devoid of any confidence, and has struggled to impose himself. In his breakout season with Sampdoria, the striker netted 11 goals in just 14 starts; a pattern of form Roma will be eager for the 23-year-old to recreate.
While Roma fans will be feeling hard done by their recent sales, at the very least the club is moving forward with a clear direction in mind. At the moment, their squad is young, vibrant and full of Italian talents on the upswing. Given Fonseca’s past experience with Shakhtar, he seems to be the ideal candidate to lead the giallorossi in the next phase of their rebuild. If recent reports are to be believed and Roma add a quality centre-back, don’t be surprised to see the giallorossi high up the table challenging Italy’s elite. Underestimate them at your own peril.
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Atalanta-Sassuolo: the Goddess survived Juventus’ second half push last week and returned from Turin with a precious point that allowed them to catch Inter and maintain a narrow lead over Milan. They have not lost since February 23rd and triumphed in eight of the following 12 rounds. Sassuolo are right in the middle of the pack but played spoiler last week by drawing with Roma. They have been defeated just once in the last eight matches, tying in five occasions. Josip Ilicic scored at the Stadium after being shut out for few weeks and also their rock Duvan Zapata and Alejandro Gomez will be popular picks since the Neroverdi are not the stingiest bunch. Neither are the Bergamaschi to be honest: the locals have spread the wealth in terms of scoring, but in general Domenico Berardi, Jeremie Boga and Stefano Sensi have been their best contributors in the final months. Hans Hateboer’s suspension makes it clear that Timothy Castagne and Robin Gosens will man the flanks: the former is more interesting since he is listed as a defender and in the midst of a prolific run. Continue reading
Sassuolo-Roma: the Neroverdi were handed their first loss since April last week by Torino, even though they certainly put up a fight, despite not being in need of points. The Giallorossi defeated Juventus with a late surge, garnering their fourth win in the last six rounds, tying in the other two and staying close to the fourth spot. Sassuolo have found the target in five of the last six rounds and La Lupa have not been great defensively on the road: they have spread the wealth around since Domenico Berardi was the only one to bag one in multiple matches. Jeremie Boga, Stefano Sensi, Manuel Locatelli and all the defenders contributed scoring-wise: Boga and Sensi have been their most lively contributors in the last few fixtures. The Giallorossi are getting a lot from Stephan El Shaarawy and Edin Dzeko, while the latest tactical change, if confirmed, would help the likes of Nicolò Zaniolo, Cengiz Under and Justin Kluivert, as the last two would see more minutes. Lorenzo Pellegrini is iffy due to a thigh ailment and his absence could allow Bryan Cristante to have a big role.
In a round that included just two shutout wins, by Roma and Milan, the Giallorossi got the best result of the week, even though they did not exactly dominate the clash with Juventus and were lucky not to go down in the score. Bologna had the most convincing display, but Parma’s consolation goal and the fact that they were gifted two own hauls did not make for a rich fantasy haul.
They had tied in Genoa the week before, letting Atalanta slip away in the standings. They have not lost since March 31st, winning four out of seven games.
Claudio Ranieri tilted his approach and went with an interesting tactic that saw Steven N’Zonzi as the lone pivot, sandwiched between Nicolò Zaniolo and Lorenzo Pellegrini, while Justin Kluivert started on the right wing, completing the trident that comprised Edin Dzeko and Stephan El Shaarawy as per usual. Continue reading
Juventus: Blaise Matuidi subbed off against Ajax due to a calf problem, but the injury is not believed to be severe. Emre Can (ankle) and Giorgio Chiellini (calf) will sit Saturday’s game too but they are not distant from returning. Juan Cuadrado is back after knee surgery, while Douglas Costa suffered a new calf problem. Miralem Pjanic, Mario Mandzukic and Cristiano Ronaldo have not been called up for rest purposes.
Napoli: Simone Verdi was scatched late for the previous match due to muscle fatigue, but he was called up for the London trip. Raul Albiol (knee) and Amadou Diawara will miss another one, but at least of them could be back next week.
Inter: Marcelo Brozovic suffered a pull of the semitendinosus muscle in the right pull and will miss the Frosinone game and perhaps one more after that. Lautaro Martinez and Stefan De Vrij are set to be called up after being sidelined by thigh ailments. Continue reading
Juventus: Mario Mandzukic (flu), Paulo Dybala (calf) and Leonardo Spinazzola (knee) have recovered from their problems, while Cristiano is sitll out. Sami Khedira, Douglas Costa and Juan Cuadrado have ramped up their activity and are close to returning, but they will not be called up in this round. Martin Caceres will miss three weeks with a thigh strain.
Napoli: Lorenzo Insigne is said to have almost recuperated from his thigh contracture and could be in the squad list in this round. David Ospina (head), Faouzi Ghoulam and Vlad Chiriches (thigh) should be in the squad in list, while Raul Albiol is not far away. Continue reading
Juventus-Milan: the Bianconeri are coming off a convincing outing in Cagliari, where they notched their second shutout win in a row and in general their seventh victory in the last eight fixtures. On the other hand, the Rossoneri failed to take home the full loot for three matches in a row as they lost to Inter and Sampdoria and then tied with Udinese. The Old Lady is likely to have back both Mario Mandzukic and Paulo Dybala for this game, while Cristiano Ronaldo is slated to sit one more out. Some players could be spared in the Ajax game, in any case Moise Kean and Federico Bernardeschi are in terrific form and have lead them scoring-wise. Continue reading
Juventus: Cristiano Ronaldo picked up a thigh strain while playing with Portugal and is unlikely to play in the next three games. Sami Khedira has been cleared to practice after a heart problem, but it will take him a little longer before playing. Douglas Costa (quad, calf), Juan Cuadrado (knee) and Andrea Barzagli (calf) remain sidelined, while Mattia De Sciglio has recovered from a thigh pull.
Napoli: Fabian Ruiz will be available after a tough flu. Lorenzo Insigne was on track to play but suffered a relapse of a thigh contracture. Continue reading
Juventus: none among Mattia De Sciglio (thigh), Andrea Barzagli (calf), Dougls Costa (quad, calf), Sami Khedira (heart) and Juan Cuadrado (knee) is expected back this week. The first one is the closest to recovering. Cristiano Ronaldo will be rested.
Napoli: Lorenzo Insigne was scratched from the XI in Europa League due to a muscular problem in the warm-up. Vlad Chiriches subbed off for the same issue, while Amadou Diawara has a foot infraction: they have all been given a 20-day prognosis. Fabian Ruiz has the flu.