Roma’s match against Hellas Verona might not be the most ritzy match they’ll have this week; that’s certainly reserved for Roma-Inter. Yet it is crucial for the Giallorossi to continue there win streak tomorrow, not only to maintain their good form, but to ensure that they maintain a positive attitude for the last remaining prize left to them: the Europa League title, and with it entrance to the Champions League. Let’s look at some of the keys to the match for the Giallorossi before they hit the field at the Olimpico.
Roma vs. Hellas Verona: July 15th. 21:45 CET/3:45 EDT. Stadio Olimpico, Roma.
It hasn’t been an ideal season for Roma’s southern rivals, with Napoli finding itself in even worse straits than the Giallorossi. Europa League football qualification is essentially a fait accompli for the Partenopei and the Giallorossi, but there’s a whole lot of pride at stake for both clubs when it comes to league standing. A win against Hellas Verona will make sure that Roma’s grip on fifth place stays tight. A draw or a loss? That’s when things get tricky, particularly with a game against Inter happening this weekend.
Despite ostensibly still being in a recovery phase for that ACL tear he suffered against Juventus earlier this season, Nicolo Zaniolo has already made several positive marks on Roma’s fortunes since the league restarted. Naturally, the biggest example of this is his goal against Brescia last Sunday, but before that, Zaniolo’s impact as a substitute was noticeable even during the limited amount of time he had on the pitch. It’s unlikely that Paulo Fonseca will give Zaniolo a starting nod tomorrow (and honestly, he’d be crazy to do so), but if Zaniolo can slowly bring himself back into the team as a goal-scoring supersub, the Giallorossi’s attacking corps will look far more potent that usual.
It wasn’t that long ago that many Romanisti were calling for Fonseca to be sacked, and those voices haven’t been entirely extinguished. Wins against Parma and Brescia are nice, of course, but those clubs are relative bottom feeders, the kinds of clubs Roma should be beating handily. Hellas Verona isn’t a titan of Serie A, but they are in the top half of the table so far this season. A win against Hellas would show that Fonseca might have actually turned a corner; a loss would make it evident that he’s lost the plot.
There have been a flurry of rumors in the past month or so surrounding the futures of many of Roma’s players, from Edin Džeko to Cengiz Ünder to Justin Kluivert. So far, Paulo Fonseca’s selections have given us a bit of a clue as to who might be staying and who might be going, and look for that to continue against Hellas Verona. Ünder looks almost assuredly gone, as despite no known injury issues, the Turk hasn’t been able to find a starter’s spot recently. Kluivert and Džeko’s futures are more cloudy, as both reportedly have suitors yet both have been finding minutes during the restarted Serie A.
Of course, the match against Inter is looming on Sunday, so take whatever benchings occur against Verona with a grain of salt. Nevertheless, it would be wise to pay attention if the likes of Kluivert and Ünder are riding the pine as this match starts. Such a scenario would definitely cause the rumors of their impending departures a little more gas.