La Gazzetta dello Sport (Chiara Zucchelli) Rehearsals before the African Cup of Nations? It may be too soon to tell, but even so, during yesterday’s friendly at Trigoria against the Primavera, Luciano Spalletti may have given the first indication of his plans when he used a 3-4-3 formation against Alberto De Rossi’s team. Perotti played more on the right hand side of the attack than El Shaarawy – il Faraone was therefore able to play on his preferred wing, and that is probably not just a coincidence. Just as it may not have been a coincidence that Spalletti continued to insist on playing a 3 (and a half) man defence, which could be entrenched as Roma’s Plan A now that Rudiger has returned to full fitness.
Everyone who normally plays from the start in Serie A played yesterday. In defence were the German, Fazio and Juan Jesus, then with 15 minutes left Rudiger was replaced by Manolas (without a mask to protect his nose), who will be available for the trip to Bergamo. The Greek came onto the pitch with no fear or nerves and, in front of Baldissoni and Massara, he even made a sliding challenge on Perfection that pleased Spalletti greatly. The game finished 2-1 – Strootman and Perotti scored for the first team (both from the penalty spot, the Dutchman after 12 minutes and the Argentine on 26 minutes), with a temporary equaliser scored by Cappa. Perotti’s performance also gave some promising indications.
Given that Nainggolan was wearing the number 10 shirt (a few fans didn’t like that, Radja replied, “Come on, it’s just a bit of fun…”) and that the captain was training separately, it was Perotti who took on Totti’s role on the pitch. He started off on the right hand side, where Salah normally plays, but then he began to spread across the pitch and enjoyed playing a number of passes to El Shaarawy and Soleri, who was given the chance to play centre forward for the first team. Another player who was similarly enjoying himself was Bruno Peres, who was playing further forward than usual on the right side of midfield with Seck playing the same role on the opposite wing. This may also be an important signal for the future, given that Rudiger’s return may force him to play in a more advanced role.
Despite the game’s low tempo, both Strootman and Nainggolan were both on the ball quite a lot in both halves of the game (one of which lasted 35 minutes and the other 30 minutes) and this was probably the best news for Spalletti: neither joined up with their national teams in order to improve their fitness, which in the Belgian’s case caused a bit of controversy. Meanwhile De Rossi will return from the Italy camp on Wednesday, while Gerson is currently in Brazil (though he wouldn’t have started even if he had been training at Trigoria). Given that Paredes won’t be available for the trip to Bergamo, it will be up to them to lead the team against one of the league’s in-form sides next weekend.
The last few days’ training, the days of rest (the team will go back to training tomorrow afternoon) and this friendly are all part of a process that has been analysed with an acute attention detail: the next cycle of games that starts on Sunday 20th and lasts until the Christmas break will be important, if not decisive, for Roma. Having both Strootman and Nainggolan in perfect condition, which has rarely been seen in the last few months, could be key during this period.