Monday’s first Coppa match against a battle-hardened Virtus Entella group is the perfect opportunity for Eusebio Di Francesco to showcase his young upstart talent, giving the youngsters invaluable knockout stage experience.
Entella comes into Monday’s match with three straight Coppa wins, including a close match against Serie A opponent Genoa, who Roma last saw action against on December 16, resulting in a 3-2 Giallorossa victory. While Roma should certainly not underestimate their upcoming opponents, the Monday fixture provides a unique opportunity to mix veteran leadership with young potential on the field. While winning the league in 2019 is for all intents and purposes out of reach, a top-four finish, beating Porto in the UCL, and winning the domestic trophy is certainly not.
Roma supporters and football enthusiasts in general, cannot seem to get enough of nineteen-year-old Nicolo Zaniolo, and for good reason. One would suspect that not only will we see Zaniolo take the pitch on Monday, but the possibility he starts and perhaps finishes could become a reality. Even more exciting, Monday will be a sort of homecoming for Zaniolo. Though he was raised in the Fiorentina system, Entella was the first club to give the midfielder his initial professional chance. Zaniolo should be motivated to show up on the scoreboard and show Roma that he is one of the most exciting young players in Italy.
Following up on an inspiring December, Roma’s last big money acquisition, Bryan Cristante, should bring balance to a midfield that seems to be forever juggling the lineup. With Captain De Rossi out now and for the foreseeable future, Cristante has been handed a golden ticket to prove that he can be Roma’s present and future. Cristante turns 24 in early March and should be entering his prime as a football player. It seems the job is his to lose.
Oft-maligned striker Patrik Schick should get the start as the primary attacking man, but don’t be surprised if EDF keeps the Czech on a tight leash. Schick has been consistently disappointing, but unless Monchi can find a buyer for the striker at a reasonable price, Roma seem destined to be stuck with him. One should expect to see Eden Dzeko take over before halftime if the offense stagnates. Another Roma teenager, Justin Kluivert will be looked upon to build on a promising start. The Entella game could prove a great opportunity for the young Dutchman to pad his stats if Schick/Dzeko take it upon themselves to bury chances.