Nearly four months since their last match, Roma finally return to action on Wednesday night when they take on Sampdoria.
It’s been a surreal wait for Serie A to resume, with Italy having been hit hard by the coronavirus pandemic. Covid-19 has shown that there are things far more important than football in life – but now that the sport is back, Roma have plenty to play for.
The first of their 12 remaining Serie A games sees them welcome Sampdoria to Stadio Olimpico. That means Claudio Ranieri will be returning to his hometown club, whom he managed for a second spell last season.
By the end of Ranieri’s 12-game tenure, he was given a huge reception upon his farewell. Sadly, no fans will be present to give him the welcome he deserves upon his return, as the game is being played behind closed doors for obvious reasons.Embed from Getty Images
Roma are chasing down a Champions League berth, but the form of Atalanta above them – which has continued exactly as it left off before lockdown – is a cause for concern. Nonetheless, there is plenty of time for Roma to try and catch up. It all starts against Sampdoria.
The extra time off has given some injured players time to recover, so Davide Zappacosta is back in the squad for the first time since August. Amadou Diawara, Lorenzo Pellegrini and Javier Pastore are all back in contention after missing the last game before the break, which was a 4-3 win over Cagliari.
However, it wouldn’t be a Roma squad without some absentees. Goalkeeper Pau Lopez has been battling injury, so is left out – meaning Antonio Mirante is likely to make his second league start of the season. He kept a clean sheet in his last one, against Inter Milan.Embed from Getty Images
Defenders Juan Jesus, Davide Santon and Mert Cetin are left out of the squad, and unfortunately, Nicolo Zaniolo is not yet ready to return. However, boss Paulo Fonseca is optimistic he should be able to call on him soon.
The last meeting between the two sides ended as a goalless draw, with Justin Kluivert being sent off for receiving two yellow cards. The Dutch winger has been the subject of transfer speculation recently, so with the world watching, will he make an impact?
That match also saw Nikola Kalinic make his first league start for the club. The striker scored a brace in Roma’s last game before the break, but after a three-and-a-half month pause, form has gone out of the window. Hence, Edin Dzeko should be expected to start as striker and captain.
Fonseca has been experimenting with a back three in training, but confirmed he is unlikely to use the system against Sampdoria. He will be able to use five substitutes rather than three after a change to the rules – although he has admitted that he hopes it returns to normal next season.
This will be the first time Roma have played in June since they won Serie A in 2001. While that is out of reach this time, they will be hoping that the summer months are kind to them again, as they look to push on for a final surge now that they are back.
The game kicks off at 8:45pm UK time and will be shown live on Premier Sports 2.