Roma play their final Serie A game of a unique season on Saturday night, as they face champions Juventus away.
The season is ending nearly a whole year after it began, after the coronavirus outbreak pushed proceedings back.
But even though this will be the last Serie A game of the season, both sides still have something to play for in Europe afterwards.
Roma have half an eye towards their Europa League Round of 16 face-off with Sevilla next week, while the same can be said of Juventus and their Champions League clash with Lyon.
In fact, Juve boss Maurizio Sarri has even suggested that they could use their under-23s against Roma. With both sides sure of where they are finishing in the league – first and fifth respectively – they have other things on their mind.
While Sarri’s claims may have been a slight exaggeration, both teams are likely to rotate. Paulo Fonseca has already confirmed that Roma will hand debuts to two players, for example.
Daniel Fuzato will make his first appearance in goal, two years after he joined the club. The 23-year-old is highly thought of in Rome, having recently signed a contract extension, and finally gets a chance to show what he is capable of.Embed from Getty Images
Also featuring for the first time will be Primavera full-back Riccardo Calafiori. The left-sided player is one of the biggest prospects in Roma’s youth setup at present, having continued his progress since recovering from a serious injury in 2018.
Doubts remain over whether Roma will be able to keep hold of him long-term, but this should give him a chance to show his credentials.
Calafiori will likely replace Leonardo Spinazzola as the left-sided wing-back in Roma’s 3-4-2-1 shape. Fuzato, obviously, replaces Pau Lopez.
Another change will see Gianluca Mancini miss out through suspension. Fonseca has plenty of options to replace him in defence, with Federico Fazio, Mert Cetin, Roger Ibanez and Juan Jesus all still in the squad – as well as the other two starters from the most recent game, Aleksandar Kolarov and Chris Smalling.
While it is a new beginning for Fuzato and Calafiori, it looks like the end of a journey for Smalling. Reports suggest that this will be the Englishman’s last game for the club, after Manchester United set too high a price for Roma to buy out his loan.
Since that loan expires after the last Serie A match, it could be the end of a brief but beautiful chapter in Smalling’s career. If it really is his farewell, he will be hoping to go out on a high.Embed from Getty Images
With neither side giving this game their full attention, it will have a slightly surreal feel. Usually one of the biggest fixtures in Italy, this will be a rare occasion where Roma go into a match against Juventus without facing too much pressure.
They will be hoping to sign off the Serie A season in style by continuing their seven-game unbeaten run. Roma have still never won at Juventus’ current stadium, but if the Old Lady really do field a seriously weakened side, this might be their best chance to get off the mark.
The game kicks off at 7:45pm UK time. It will not be broadcast live in Britain, but Premier Sports 2 are showing delayed coverage of it from 10:45pm.