AS Roma return to European action in the Europa Conference league for matchday five of the group stage with a home game against Zorya Luhansk under the lights on Thursday evening.
After a two-week international break, which came at the right time, Roma looked refreshed and a bit more organised against a Genoa side who have been struggling for form at the start of this season.
It was a tale of two halves, as cliche as it sounds on Sunday night away in Genoa. The first half was cagey and Roma were pedestrian in possession. A lot of sideways passing through the defence as Genoa under new coach Andriy Shevchenko sat deep in a low block.
It changed in the second half with a few tactical tweaks. Roma played a little bit higher on the pitch and had more joy going forward in attack. Roma had to be patient and professional and rewarded with two late goals from Ghanian striker Felix Afena-Gyan. Both goals were outstanding, the first a wonderful flowing counter-attacking goal and a smart finish first time across Salvatore Sirigu. The second was a blockbuster from distance with the last kick of the game which arrowed into the top corner. A game the young striker will never forget.
That was a massive win for Roma given the complexity of the season to date, before kick-off Roma were languishing as low as 8th. That win propelled back into contention for a top-four spot and above city rivals Lazio who lost the previous evening at home to Juventus.
It seems Jose Mourinho has found a new solution and new tactical setup, ditching the 4-2-3-1 to a 3-4-1-2 with more defensive cover and more attacking threat. It’s early days and it is good to see that Mourinho does have a plan B.
PREDICTED XI | ROMA (3-4-1-2)
Rui Patricio, Mancini, Smalling, Ibanez, Karsdorp, Darboe, Diawara, El Shaarawy, Zaniolo, Borja Mayoral, Afena-Gyan.
Zorya Luhansk are currently in 5th position in the Ukrainian Premier League with twenty-nine points from fifteen games. They are nine points behind both Dynamo Kyiv and Shakhtar Donetsk who are joint top with thirty-eight points from fifteen games. Dynamo Kyiv are top on goal difference by a solitary one goal.
Zorya Luhansk are just one point behind AS Roma in the Group C table, Roma have seven points and the Ukrainian side has six. For Zorya, it has been back-to-back wins since the matchday two defeat to Roma in Ukraine. Both wins were against the bottom side CSKA Sofia, the first a 1-0 away win in Sofia and the second was a 2-0 home win with both goals for Zorya coming in the last three minutes of the game.
In the Ukrainian domestic league, it has been looking good for Zorya. In the last nine games, it has been seven wins and two defeats. The two defeats have been a bit damaging, the first was a 6-1 mauling away at Shakhtar Donetsk, De Zerbi ball at its finest. The second happened just this weekend after the international break, Zorya Luhansk suffered a 2-1 away defeat to now 12th place PFK Lviv.
PREDICTED XI | ZORYA LUHANSK (4-3-3)
Matsapura, Favorov, Imerekov, Cvek, Khomchenovskiy, Buletsa, Nazaryna, Kochergin, Kabiev, Gromov, Sayysmaneshshiadeh.