One foot in Europa League quarter finals but a step back in Serie A for Roma

Roma are almost in the quarter finals of the Europa League after they beat Braga of Portugal 2-0. The return leg is tonight in Italy and it is widely expected that the Giallorossi will have few problems in reaching the last 8 after their dominant display in the 1st leg.

The Europa League win was a game of a goal in the early stages and a goal at the end. Within 5 minutes of the start Leonardo Spinnazola had set up Edin Dzeko with a beautiful pass that caught out the Braga defence and Dzeko made no mistakes to put Roma in front. Dzeko has struggled to hold down a place this season and had fallen out with coach Paulo Fonseca so this goal felt like redemption for him.

Roma could have been 3 goals up within the hour if they had had some luck. A penalty appeal was rejected by a VAR review and then a goal was wiped off due to offside after another VAR review. But Roma knew that if they had a chance going into the 2nd leg against a quality side like Braga they would need to try and grab that second.

The goal finally came with just four minutes remaining but there would still be some controversy and tense moments to have it confirmed. Good work from Jordan Veretout set up Borja Mayoral to slot in an easy chance but VAR called it back for yet another possible offside. After some tense minutes the goal was given and Roma deservedly won the game 2-0. In the end Braga managed just 1 shot on target which was simply not good enough.

So the Europa League game was the good news, but the bad news was that Roma’s league title challenge could be over. The club could only draw 0-0 away to Benevento. The Giallorossi created numerous chances and again were denied a stoppage time penalty by VAR. They deserved the win this time but could only get a point. The end scenes were also chaotic as Benevento coach Filipo Inzaghi was sent off.

Roma are in 4th place with Atalanta and Lazio only one point behind them for a Champions League place. The Giallorossi have also slipped 9 points behind league leaders Inter and have Milan and Juventus in front of them. The league title isn’t quite over for them but realistically it now looks a distant hope and the focus has to be on finishing in a top 4 place.

What do the bookmakers think?

Let’s look at the two competitions that Roma are still in with a chance of winning which of course is Serie A and the Europa League. This is what the bookmakers think of Roma’s chances of winning either competition.

Serie A : 45/1

Europa League: 14/1

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Roma score 3 goals in 9 minutes against Verona to keep up title charge

It only took Roma 9 minutes to effectively finish off and win their 12th game of the season against Verona at Stadio Olimpico and the Giallorossi will maintain their hunt for the Scudetto.

The goals started from the 20th minute when Lorenzo Pellegrini’s corner found the head of Gianluigi Mancini. Mancini was 12 yards from goal and his header in fairness was not powerful, though it was directed well and see to evade Verona’s defenders and the keeper and Roma were in the lead.

The Giallorossi then doubled their lead just 120 seconds later with Verona’s defence stretched out after a quick counter attack. Marco Silvestri in goal for the visitors made the mistake to come far too out and Borja Mayoral who has been on good form for Roma almost had a clear chance. Mayoral though was sent wide but spotted Henrikh Mkhitaryan unmarked and in a better position. With Silvestri all over the place and gaps galore Mkhitaryan who had gone off the boil somewhat in the past few weeks slotted in to score his 9th goal of the season.

Roma could not believe their luck when seven minutes later they had made it 3-0. Again from a corner the ball found Pellegrini on the edge of the area who lashed his shot but the ball came off of Silvestri and fell to Mayoral right in front of him who was given a gift and didn’t fail to disappoint.

It was a first half dominated by Roma and it ended 3-0. In the second half Roma had a few chances to get a fourth but Silvestri in goal for Verona who had had a nightmare first 45 minutes showed his qualities and put in a very solid 2nd half performance.

Towards the end Roma who knew they had won this game just tried to dictate the pace and it was clear that the match was petering out. However Verona did get a consolation goal when Roma had appeared to switch off a little, the goal was from a breakaway and headed in by Ebrima Colley.

It was a well deserved victory by Roma and they are 3rd in the league behind Milan and Inter and have 40 points.

Fonseca and Dzeko update

It’s no secret that Roma coach Paulo Fonseca and Edin Dzeko have fallen out. Last week Dzeko was isolated and sent to train on his own. However after a possible move to Inter falling through on deadline day Dzeko will remain with the club. Fonseca and Dzeko have had a meeting since and Dzeko is set to rejoin the rest of the group and could even play this weekend when Roma take part in a huge game against Juventus.

Player focus: Lorenzo Pellegrini

Lorenzo Pellegrini started the season slowly but in the last 2 months has really picked up and become an integral part of this Roma side. He has been involved in 9 goals and scored 4 and assisted in another 5. Pellegrini so far has 33 points in the fantasy rankings and is the 3rd best ranked player for Roma. He is currently the 11th ranked player in the whole of Serie A for his position, and his value is 7m.

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Paulo Fonseca on the hot-seat in Roma

Roma has struggled in recent weeks with Paulo Fonseca attracting heavy criticism in the nation’s capital. The Giallorossi suffered a disappointing defeat against Lazio in the latest iteration of the Derby Della Capitale and most recently slumped to a shock elimination against Spezia in the Coppa Italia. To make matters worse, Fonseca wrongly made six substitutions, handing Roma its second forfeit of the season.

Roma avenged its defeat in the Coppa Italia on Saturday, but nearly dropped points once again. The Italian giants needed a stoppage-time winner to overcome Spezia, with Lorenzo Pellegrini firing home the winner in the seven-goal thriller. The win offers Fonseca some temporary respite in the Roma hot-seat, but as the disappointing performances pile on the tactician’s future is very much in doubt.

According to recent reports, Roma is seriously considering replacing Fonseca come summertime with a number of high-profile managers in contention. Massimiliano Allegri and Maurizio Sarri have since been linked with the job, casting further uncertainty over Fonseca’s future.

Despite the increased reports, Roma is still picking up results, emerging as legitimate top-four contenders. While the Giallorossi have gotten the job done thus far, their struggles against top sides over the course of the season have been concerning. Roma is yet to win in its clashes against Italy’s top six, losing to Atalanta, Napoli, and Lazio, while playing out to draws against Juventus, Milan, and Inter.

Beyond the disappointing results, Roma has conceded 16 goals in these six games, highlighting their defensive issues. In many ways, the second half of the season will be defining for Fonseca’s tenure in the nation’s capital. The first step for the Portuguese tactician is guiding Roma back into Europe’s elite competition. Should Fonseca deliver Champions League football at Roma, the case for his departure weakens significantly.

The reality is, Champions League football alone is simply not enough. Roma must demonstrate considerable improvement against Italy’s giants in the second half of the season. As the race for top four intensifies, it may just prove to be the difference. While qualifying for Champions League football is good in itself, Roma needs to show it can compete at the highest level under Fonseca.

Fonseca’s naivety has been on display in big games with Roma, underlining a worrying trend. Should the lapses in concentration continue, the Roma brass must seriously consider how much of their woes stem from their manager. The Portuguese boss has instilled an entertaining and expansive brand of football, but Roma often falls short in their own defensive third.

Let’s now consider Fonseca’s potential replacements. Allegri has regularly proven to be one of Italy’s elite tacticians, enjoying varying degrees of success where he goes. The former Juventus boss would offer Roma some much-needed stability and pragmatism, which will especially come in handy in big games. If Allegri is interested in the job, there is no reason why Roma shouldn’t pull the trigger.

Other than Allegri, Sarri has often been linked with the Roma hot-seat. The 62-year-old was most recently sacked by Juventus despite leading them to yet another Scudetto. Sarri’s 4-3-3 is arguably a better fit for Roma’s current roster, making for an intriguing appointment. While his ideas never fully got implemented in Turin, a potential move to Roma could just be the shake-up Sarri needs. With the pressure to deliver trophies reduced, Sarri could hit the ground running – much like it was the case with Napoli.

Fonseca’s time in the nation’s capital may just be coming to an end, even if he leads Roma back into the Champions League. Allegri and Sarri represent a better fit given their experience in Serie A and could offer Roma a fresh start they need.

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Roma fall 9 pts behind after derby defeat against Lazio and exit Coppa Italia

Of all the defeats Roma can take in a Serie A season the one that will always hurt the most is the defeat in the derby and at the weekend Paulo Fonseca’s team were no match for Lazio.

Lazio ran out 3-0 winners and while the final result looked more like gloss against a game that was closer no one could deny that Lazio were the more attacking side and deserved their win.

A terrible defensive error by Roma’s Ibanez allowed Lazio a glorious chance which Ciro Immobile snapped up to put the designated home side in the lead. That was Immobile’s 12 league goal of the season as he tries to catch up to Cristiano Ronaldo and is only 3 goals away from that target.

By the 23rd minute Lazio were 2-0 up courtesy of Luis Alberto. It was a strange goal as Manuel Lazzari came bursting into the area on the right hand side and he thought he had been fouled for a penalty, the referee waved on. However Lazzari quickly got up and passed the ball to an unmarked Alberto who slotted home well.

The best goal was saved for last in the 2nd half when Alberto placed the ball into the lower bottom right corner from just outside the area and his expression after the goal said it all, he knew it was a special goal and also a special derby performance from his club on such an important occasion.

The result means that Roma have fallen 9 points behind Milan in the race for the title and the Giallorossi are in 4th place on the same points as Napoli with 34 but they in turn are 6 points behind 2nd placed Inter. Despite losing their 4th game of the season Roma are still in a Champions League place but we are not even at the halfway stage of the season yet.

Coach Fonseca was obviously disappointed and a little dejected by the defeat against Lazio. Fonseca said: “We can’t change what happened, but we can start thinking that what happened should not happen again. The team must understand that we can only change the future by changing our attitude in the game. As I said I’m above all disappointed for our fans.”

Roma crash out of Coppa Italia against Spezia

Paulo Fonseca talked Spezia up and said they would be a dangerous side and he was correct. Spezia knocked out Roma after extra time winning 4-2. It was a game full of incident and for Spezia fans and the neutral it was one full of excitement too.

It looked all over for Roma after Spezia took an early two goal lead but the home side were able to pull a goal back just before half time through Lorenzo Pellegrini’s penalty. When Henrikh Mikahitaryan made it 2-2 late on in the 2nd half it seemed as though Roma were easing themselves back into the game and would go on and win it either in normal time or extra time, but Spezia would get the final say.

Roma imploded in extra time and had not one but 2 players sent off within 30 seconds of each other. Gianluca Mancini was given a his 2nd booking after a tripping and then frustration built up and Pau Lopez followed him for an early bath. Although the game was still 2-2 it became stretched and Spezia made playing against 9 men count and scored 2 goals soon after to kill the match. This was a very disappointing result for the club.

Tension mounts after sacking of Gianluca Gomber

Not only did Roma lose in the Coppa Italia to Spezia but they would have in fact been kicked out of the competition even if they had won the game. This was because the club made six substitute choices instead of the required 5 allowed.

The blame did not go to Paulo Fonseca as ‘team manager’ Gianluca Gomber was in charge of the count of subs being made. Unlike for example in England where only 3 subs are allowed, although five in the cup, in Italy and other major leagues 5 are allowed in all the games.

Gomber made the fatal error and was sacked by the club on Wednesday morning, the day after the game. But it doesn’t end there as Roma’s players are furious with the decision. Gomber was part of the behind the scenes team and the players had a close and good relationship with him. The players have made it known that they want Gomber reinstated and that anyone can make a mistake. Watch this space!

Could Fonseca be sacked too?

The big news breaking this week is that Roma coach Paulo Fonseca could be sacked. It is understood that the club were expecting to be much closer at the top of the league but 9 points seems like a mountain and now they have been knocked out of the cup Fonseca could go.

It has been rumoured that Max Allegri and Maurizio Sarri have emerged as the favourites to take over the club and that Fonseca’s job is under real threat. One would expect that if Roma fail to impress at the weekend where again they will face their cup conquerors Spezia he could be walking.

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Henrikh Mkhitaryan’s rebirth to propel Roma back into the Champions League

Since assuming the reins in 2019, Paulo Fonseca has wasted no time implementing his footballing philosophy in the nation’s capital. The veteran tactician has proven to be a willing learner since making the switch to Italian football, switching from his preferred 4-3-3 into a more fluid 3-4-2-1. Henrikh Mkhitaryan has arguably been the biggest benefactor of the formation change, establishing himself as one of Serie A’s deadliest creative threats.

The Armenian international is off to one of the best starts to a season in recent memory, registering seven goals and six assists in 14 appearances. Mkhitaryan has combined wonderfully with Edin Dzeko and Pedro up top, interchanging freely in the final third. The former Arsenal man has excelled with his newfound freedom and has since led the Giallorossi into third place heading into 2021.

Roma has failed to qualify for the last two editions of the Champions League and will be eager to make their return to Europe’s elite competition. Beyond the prestige that comes with the competition, Champions League qualification would represent more funds to bolster the side. Mkhitaryan’s rebirth offers a cause for excitement in the nation’s capital and could propel Roma back into the conversation alongside Europe’s elite.

The 31-year-old initially broke onto the scene back in 2016 in Germany with Borussia Dortmund, emerging as an elite attacking midfielder under Jurgen Klopp. Mkhitaryan finished the season with 11 goals and 15 assists in 28 starts, prompting interest from England’s giants. The Armenian international eventually made the move to Manchester United, where he struggled to replicate his past exploits. Simply put, English football did not suit Mkhitaryan’s skillset.

Mkhitaryan later moved to Arsenal in hopes of reviving his career, but once again, failed to prove his worth in London. His woes in England meant he was available on the cheap, with Roma swooping in for his signature, securing him on a loan deal. The former Manchester United man impressed on his loan, scoring nine goals and recording five assists in 16 appearances. The decision to trigger their option for him proved to be an easy one for Roma.

The switch to Italian football has since helped Mkhitaryan get his career back on track and show glimpses of his past form. The Armenian international is currently on pace to beat his breakout season with Dortmund and surpass his personal best for goals and assists. Beyond his impressive numbers, Mkhitaryan makes Roma tick in the final third.

The 31-year-old is always looking to dictate play in possession and regularly looks to take on his man. His connection with Dzeko has made for one of Italy’s most intriguing strike partnerships this season, with the Giallorossi netting 31 goals already on the season. Given both their experience, expect Roma to continue their run of form heading into 2021.

Fonseca’s men open up the new year against Sampdoria and Crotone, but they can’t get too comfortable. After all, mouth-watering clashes against Inter and Lazio await them in the space of five days, wrapping up an enthralling month of January. With Mkhitaryan firing on all cylinders, the Italian giants will like their chances.

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Roma draw a blank against Sassuolo as coach Fonseca receives a touchline ban

There were two disallowed goals and a red card as Roma could only draw against a tough opponent in Sassuolo at home, with the game ending 0-0.

First man of the moment for Roma Henrikh Mkhitaryan saw his goal effort ruled out by VAR as there had been a foul in the build up. At least for Roma this would be levelled up later on when Sassuolo thought that they had taken the lead in the 75th minute which could have been the winner through Lukas Haraslin but this was ruled out also.

The focus on the game was not the 1 point earned though but other incidents. The first of which was Pedro Rodriguez’s performance. The midfielder was sent off for two bookable offences. The first involved a head butt and the second a cynical foul and the former Barcelona player was having an early first half shower.

Pedro’s sending off led to another sending off but not for a player but for Roma’s coach Paulo Fonseca who was angered by Pedro’s red card. He seemed to insult an official and was given his marching orders and it has now been confirmed that Fonseca will receive a touchline ban for Roma’s next Serie A game which will take place away to Bologna.

This result has left Roma in sixth place with 18 points and they are now 8 points behind leader leaders Milan. Of course being just 2 points from 4th place a possible Champions League finish is very realistic but it is too early to talk about that.

Fonseca had his thoughts after the match and had this to say, “I am very proud of the lads, as we played very well, had the better scoring opportunities, were organised in defence and stopped a great team like Sassuolo from creating chances. I didn’t like the refereeing, though. I don’t understand why Pedro’s first foul was a yellow card. After that, I saw the situation with Pellegrini, how is that a yellow? I know the referee might not see it well, but VAR ought to see that. There was also potentially a penalty for us with the handball, but again VAR did not intervene.”

As far as the fantasy points are concerned not one player with Giallorossi earned any points. The player who really missed out was inevitably Pedro who finished with -2 points for the weekend.

The Europa League is up next for Roma but it is a dead rubber game against CSKA Sofia and Fonseca will rest much of his regular team. Roma have already qualified as group winners. The draw for the knock out stage of the Europa League will take place on December 14th.

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Reality check for Roma with crushing defeat at Napoli as Giallorossi aim to finish 1st in Europa League group

Roma lost their ‘first’ league game of the season as they were crushed by Napoli 4-0 at the weekend. Of course the Serie A standings will have made this the clubs 2nd defeat of the season, which it is, although in theory their game v Verona was defaulted.

Let’s be honest and say that the Giallorossi were simply overwhelmed by Napoli and a higher plane rising above any other player who was on that pitch on Sunday. That man was of course Diego Armando Maradona, perhaps the greatest player to have ever played the game, and certainly the greatest to have played for Napoli. His sudden passing last week was a shock and will live in the memory for all football fans for as long as the game is played.

There was no mistake that at San Paolo Stadium, which looks soon to be renamed after Maradona that the Argentine’s brilliance was not influencing the game. For Napoli who haven’t won Serie A since Maradona guided them to two titles in 1987 and 1990, they had an extra determination, extra passion and dare it be said an extra power to them at the weekend, this was all about honouring El Diego, and they rightly did.

Lorenzo Insigne opened the scoring for Napoli and there was always only going to be one winner here. Indeed whilst Napoli had 9 shots on target Roma had just 1 and the Giallorossi were never in the game.

Most of the players did see this match as a one off, they simply were not at the races, out fought by a team that wanted so desperately to honour their hero. This is what football does, and the game can work on such a higher psychological level that even if we say that man for man Roma have a better team than Napoli, at times that can simply pale into significance.

Roma coach Paulo Fonseca had this to say about the defeat which leaves the club in sixth place and six points behind the current leaders AC Milan. “We couldn’t string three passes together. Quite simply, we didn’t show enough courage and did not do anywhere near enough to earn a result against Napoli. We weren’t the best team in the world before this game and we are not the worst now. Every match is a test for this team, not just against the biggest opponents. It certainly wasn’t a good performance, as we lacked aggression, lacked courage, so we need to learn from this and correct our mistakes next time.”

Six Roma players earned minus points at the weekend, with the best having to share zero points, that’s how bad the performance was. The worst affected player was goalkeeper Antonio Mirante who lost 6 points. The worst affected outfield player was Ibanez who lost 4 points.

The knock out stages of the Europa League await Roma

Roma have already qualified for the knockout stages of the Europa League- that’s the good news. But it could get even better when the Giallorossi clash with Young Boys on Thursday evening. If Roma win then they are guaranteed first position which usually means an easier path and a so called easier fixture in the first knock out round. Roma will be at home to Young Boys and in the reverse fixture Roma won 2-1.

Next league game v Sassuolo

Roma’s next Serie A game will take place at home against third place Sassuolo who have been a real surprise package this season. Roma are unbeaten at home so far with three wins and one draw and that includes winning their last three in a row. Last season Roma won this fixture 4-2 and Sassuolo do not usually travel well to the capital.

Henrikh Mkhitaryan was firing on all cylinders before the Napoli defeat and has scored 5 goals so far and the club will be hoping that he can recapture his fantastic form. The midfielder also has the most fantasy points for the team with 38 so far and his fantasy value is 7.5m.

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Roma’s hot start comes crashing down against Napoli

Roma kicked off the season in sensational form after their bizarre forfeit against Hellas Verona, propelling themselves into an unlikely title race. The Giallorossi’s hot start came to an abrupt end, suffering a comprehensive defeat against Napoli. Paulo Fonseca’s side failed to get into the game, eventually losing 4-0 to the Partenopei.

While it is the side’s only defeat on the field this season, the manner in which they lost was slightly concerning. Roma was completely played off the pitch by Gennaro Gattuso’s men and will need to turn it around ahead of the holiday stretch. Bryan Cristante, a midfielder by trade, has had to deputize at the back due to an injury crisis at the club, and did a solid job – that was until Sunday.

Summer arrival Marash Kumbulla is expected to return to the lineup, after battling with COVID-19 for the better part of the last two weeks. The defender’s return will offer Roma some much-needed stability at the back, allowing Cristante to return to a more familiar position.

Beyond their defensive woes on Sunday, Napoli completely overran Fonseca’s side in the middle of the park. Jordan Veretout and Lorenzo Pellegrini struggled to get a grip of things in the midfield and regularly turned over possession. Roma’s 3-4-2-1 setup has worked in recent weeks, but in big games, their midfield duo needs support.

Whether it is a winger tracking back centrally, or one of their wingbacks coming into the middle, Fonseca would be wise to make a tactical adjustment. Otherwise, Roma risks getting outnumbered in the midfield in every big game. Gattuso took full advantage of this opportunity, deploying a midfield three of Diego Demme, Fabian Ruiz, and Piotr Zielinski.

The Polish international was a constant menace in the final third and often drifted between the lines, without being marked. Fabian Ruiz, on the other hand, was offered more freedom by Gattuso and regularly popped up in and around the area. As Demme shielded the back four, Fabian Ruiz and Zielinski’s runs opened up Roma’s rearguard and overloaded the middle of the park. If Roma wants to continue its fine run of form, Fonseca should take note of this and make the appropriate tactical changes.

As a result of their midfield struggles, Roma’s front three of Pedro, Henrikh Mkhitaryan, and Edin Dzeko were largely stranded up top. Mkhitaryan often dropped deep to collect possession but was unable to find outlets in the final third. Roma’s wingbacks tried to get forward in support, but Napoli did well to double up on their markers out wide and nullify their threat.

Roma had been flying high before matchday nine, but have since been rocked back to earth following their heavy defeat. Fonseca would be wise to learn from his side’s mistakes and retool his setup ahead of the upcoming stretch. Roma has made some significant progress under the Portuguese tactician and is arguably a few tweaks away from hitting their best form. It may have taken a 4-0 defeat, but it might just help them in the long run.

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Mkhitaryan in the form of his life as Roma go 3rd with third win in a row

There were no problems for Roma who went 3rd in the league as they beat Parma 3-0 for the 3rd win in a row in Serie A.

Paulo Fonseca’s side were ruthless as they scored all of their goals in the first half, having 5 shots on target alone in that period. Parma had to make do with having 1 shot on target for the whole match.

The plaudits will once again be paid to Henrikh Mkhitaryan who scored 2 goals, and a few weeks ago scored a hat trick. The player is on fire and is obviously enjoying himself.

With his 2 goals Mkhitaryan earned 10 points at the weekend in the fantasy rankings and he now has a total of 38. This total is enough to make him currently the best player in the rankings for Serie A.

So far this season Roma have scored 19 goals and Mkhitaryan has been involved in 9 of them, scoring 5 and assisting in a further 4.

The opening goal in the Parma game came after 28 minutes after some lovely work from Leonardo Spinazzola. His reverse clever pass found Borja Mayoral unmarked in the area and tucked away with precision. That was Mayoral’s first goal of the season and also Spinnazola’s first assist.

Minutes later it was 2-0 and this was a belter. Mkhitaryan picked up a bouncing loose ball on the edge of the area and thumped it home. Then just a few minutes after that it was 3-0, this goal again for Mkhitaryan won’t be remembered as was just a simple tap in.

Roma may have been left frustrated in the second half as no further goals developed but they had done their job early on and earned the three points. With the club in 3rd place they are just 3 points behind AC Milan.

Paulo Fonseca happy with Roma’s performance

“We put in an excellent performance, especially in the first half, as we scored three goals and could’ve had quite a few more. I think the team played well, in the second half we controlled the situation and still created more chances to find the net. I always said Mkhitaryan is a great professional who can do well in various different roles, so I am not surprised by what he’s doing. The team is feeling confident. It’s true Edin Dzeko is very important to us, but it’s also important to see that the team maintains its identity despite changing numerous players.”

Roma prepare for Cluj and receive fantastic boost

Roma will play Cluj in the Europa League on Thursday evening and the club received some good news. Striker Edin Dzeko has been passed fit to play in the game. It was initially thought that he would miss this one and instead make his comeback from injury against Napoli at the weekend.

It is expected that Dzeko will start from the bench and play at least 20 minutes of the game to get his fitness levels up before the Napoli match.

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Serie A Matchday 9: Preview, what to watch, and more!

The new Serie A season has not disappointed, with Stefano Pioli’s Milan taking the league by storm. The Rossoneri have not been the only team to shock the calcio world, as Sassuolo’s rapid rise to prominence has them within two points of first place, off the back of an unbeaten start. Paulo Fonseca’s Roma is slowly coming together and would be unbeaten, had it not been for an administrative error condemning them to forfeit against Hellas Verona.

In any case, matchday nine is upon us and presents some intriguing matchups. Without further ado, here’s what to watch out for:

1) Are Sassuolo legit? 

The Neroverdi are off to an incredible start to the season, maintaining an unbeaten record after eight matchdays, including an impressive 2-0 over Napoli. Roberto De Zerbi’s men have thrown their names into the conversation in Itay alla Atalanta and continue to emerge as this season’s surprise package. Their recent success comes with one question mark: Can they replicate their success as their schedule gets harder?

Sassuolo has won five of its eight encounters thus far, with four of their wins coming against Spezia, Bologna, Crotone, and Hellas Verona. While you can only beat the sides in front of you, they may be rocked back to earth shortly. This weekend De Zerbi’s men host Inter, a clash that will serve as a good litmus test for their top-four credentials. They will then take on Roma the week after. If they can get two positive results, it is safe to say they’re legit.

2) Can a Zlatan-less Milan get it done? 

Milan’s recent resurgence has been nothing short of remarkable, with the Rossoneri emerging as one of Europe’s hottest teams since the lockdown. Pioli’s men are flying high in first place and have shown no signs of slowing down. Led by the indomitable Ibrahimovic, Milan has picked up from where they left off last season, with six wins and two draws in eight games.

The big Swede has led the line with great aplomb and most recently fired his side to an important victory with a brace against Napoli. Ibrahimovic currently tops the scoring charts with 10 goals in six appearances but has since been sidelined with a thigh injury. The initial prognosis has ruled him out from Milan’s upcoming game against Fiorentina, begging the question: Can a Zlatan-less Milan get it done?

We’ll have our answer Sunday morning when Pioli’s men take the pitch against la Viola.

3) Are Roma title contenders? 

This question is often asked about Roma after their hot starts to the new season, with the Giallorossi eventually disappointing. But this season feels different. Roma is in fine form right now and surging up the table with convincing wins. Henrikh Mkhitaryan has rolled back the years, Jordan Veretout is doing his thing from the spot, Pedro has impressed and countless budding talents have stepped up.

In a year unlike any other, Roma might just have what it takes to go all the way and contend. Juve remains a side in transition and the Giallorossi have shown they can compete with them. Milan has emerged as the anti-Juve until now, but their depth in the long run is concerning.

Roma takes on Napoli this weekend and will then shift its attention to Sassuolo: Much like it is the case for the Neroverdi, Roma’s next two games will be highly indicative of where they will finish this season. If they can get two wins, or at the very least four points, you would be foolish to write them off.

Then again, don’t get your hopes too high just yet as the wheels might just fall off. A prospect many Giallorossi fans have come to terms with.

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