Looking for Thomas – forgotten man Vermaelen to make Roma return against Astra Giurgiu

La Gazzetta dello Sport (Andrea Pugliese) It’s been nearly 3 and a half months – nearly as long as it took Rudiger to recover from a cruciate ligament injury – since we watched Vermaelen’s last proper game for Roma. It came on 28th August when the Giallorossi were away at Cagliari – a game that saw Roma contrive to draw a game that they looked to have won. Since then, the Belgian has dropped off the Giallorossi’s radar with an athletic pubalgia problem, only reappearing for a few minutes at the end of the recent home game against Pescara. However, it looks like he has now reached the light at the end of the tunnel. At least, that’s what both he and Roma will be hoping. The real indication of this will come tonight, when Vermaelen is expected to lead the Roma defence during their match in Bucharest against Astra Giurgiu in their final Europa League game.

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“I’m expecting a good performance from Vermaelen,” Spalletti said, “because I’ve seen his fitness levels in training and I’m certain that he’s ready to play a competitive match. Because he’s been out injured for so long, we haven’t seen his true ability yet, but we already know how good a player he can be. We need to make sure he can get back to being the player we went out to buy, and he needs to make sure he starts to show his ability.” And there lies the real issue: trying to rediscover the real Vermaelen. Because while it’s true that the pubalgia has kept him out for some time, it’s also true that Vermaelen’s first few performances (Porto, Udinese, Cagliari) were not exactly impressive.

The time has come for the Belgian to stand up and put his demons behind him. The week after the Cagliari game he played for Belgium against Cyprus, a match that created a major diplomatic incident between Roma and Belgium. He was able to play in that match after taking anti-inflammatories, which Roma argued was the wrong treatment choice. His athletic pubalgia, which he had already been struggling with during the European Championships in France, subsequently returned.

All that is in the past now though, and all people are hoping for now is that he shows that he wasn’t a bad signing. No one has ever called his ability into question, just how reliable he is physically, given the numerous problems he has had in the past, the most recent of which saw him spend the majority of his spell at Barcelona in the treatment room. Perhaps tonight will be a new dawn for him. And, ultimately, Roma will have to find out whether it is worth signing him permanently or not.

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