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Luca Pellegrini ready to challenge Emerson Palmieri for Roma’s left back spot

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La Gazzetta dello Sport (Andrea Pugliese) One seems predestined, having already won 3 scudetti at youth level (Giovanissimi, Allievi and Primavera). The other, meanwhile, has shaped his own destiny, fighting his critics and only being stopped on his upward trajectory by a horrible injury. They both play in the same position – left back – and both have great stamina. But while Luca Pellegrini, born in 1999, has been one of the surprises of the pre-season training camp at Pinzolo, Emerson is still anxiously waiting to return to full fitness. In the meantime, Di Francesco has been relying on the young Pellegrini (no relation to Lorenzo, the midfielder who has just been brought back home from Sassuolo). And he will do again later today in the second pre-season friendly, which sees Roma face FC Slovacko, who finished 11th in the Czech league last season, at Pinzolo (16.00 local time, live on Roma TV and the club’s Facebook page).

On paper, Emerson is the starting left back, even though we will have to wait until October to see him on the pitch again. “A month and a half has already passed since the injury, but things are all going well,” the Brazilian, who has found himself in contention for a place in Italy’s national team, said. “I’m working a lot in the gym to build up the strength I’ve lost in my muscles. It was hard to accept the injury, but it’s in the past now. I’m just thinking about recovering as quickly as possible and returning at 110%. The fans are giving me strength as well, every time I see them they’re always very kind to me.” There was a moment, though, when things changed for Emerson last season, after he had been heavily criticised at the start. “The first derby, that was when I really started to feel like a Roma player,” he continues. “I had confidence in myself, I always knew I was a good player. After the Porto game, I thought that I needed to do something different and I succeeded. And I can’t wait to get back, because I know full backs are very important to Di Francesco, they’re bound to be crucial to his style of play. And I know that this will be a very strong team.”

In the meantime, as Emerson waits to take his place in the team, the full back role will be filled by Luca Pellegrini. This summer, Atalanta, Genoa, Udinese and Sassuolo were all interested in him. A fair number of Serie A clubs, even though he’s only 18 years old. Some complain that he’s only being given a chance so early because his agent is Mino Raiola, others say if he’s good enough that’s all that matters. At Pinzolo, he is showing that he has potential and that he deserves the plaudits he has been earning up to now. Di Francesco will have his eyes on him today. And who knows, maybe he will take him with him to America for the tour, where the Giallorossi will face PSG, Tottenham and Juventus. A taste of the very top level of football.

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