Describing the Europa League as an opportunity is sure to make people either laugh or cry, and ultimately it is a continuation of the same sort of reaction to the elimination from the Champions League. But without wanting to put too much stress on it, and putting the obvious financial impact that the defeat against Porto had to one side, Roma have an opportunity ahead of them which shouldn’t be taken lightly.
The calendar has assigned Luciano Spalletti with 7 games in 22 days, and it’s right to call that an opportunity. There are European games, and even league games that will impact on Europe, because between this Sunday and 2nd October Roma will be facing both Fiorentina and Inter, two teams who are highly unlikely to finish that far away from the Giallorossi in the league.
The Europa League isn’t the Champions League though, and that’s where the big difference lies, because the draw has been fairly kind to Roma and theoretically gives them their best chance of rotating their entire squad in order to give them playing time which they would otherwise have found difficult to come by. So looking position by position, leaving the goalkeepers to one side as Alisson and Szczesny have a separate competition for their place going on, here is who could make the most of the extra games to (try to) give Spalletti a selection headache.
Defence Take Fazio, for instance. The Argentine is clearly low down in the pecking order in central defence, although nothing should be taken for granted – especially if Vermaelen continues to show a few gaps in his game as he has in his first few matches. That will be the case at least until Rudiger returns, who will start training with his team-mates again between the end of the month and the start of October. What Roma will he come back to? What role will Spalletti give him? Keep an eye on him potentially being used as a right back, if it’s true that the coach is considering Bruno Peres as much more than just an alternative to the other left backs, where Emerson Palmieri has a lot of improvement to do (after he has sat out the next two European games through suspension).
Midfield The rotations here will be much needed and may also include Florenzi. Gerson will definitely have the opportunity to understand what Roma and Spalletti’s style is all about. The same goes for Paredes, who due to De Rossi’s injury and suspension will have to speed up his learning curve. The process can go one of two ways: either he takes Roma and controls them with a steady hand, or he risks remaining just a backup option when De Rossi returns.
Attack Totti and Iturbe, most of all, have the opportunity here. The same goes for El Shaarawy, who has started the season on the sidelines but is surely destined to get playing time. The fixture schedule will give Iturbe some important game time, and Spalletti is interested to see him at work playing with a degree of continuity before he gives up on him. And Totti’s first game of the season will also come between now and 2nd October: it won’t be asking much to expect some magic from him. But it would be a mistake to expect the same Roma in every game.
This article is a translation – the original was written by Andrea Pugliese for La Gazzetta dello Sport.