Roma is coming off two of the worst performances of the season. Collapsing a 3-0 lead against Atlanta and a 7-1 humiliation to Florentina in the Copa Italia quarterfinals. This is not what Roma needed before their biggest game of the season. Roma host fourth-place AC Milan at the Stadio Olimpico on Sunday night with an opportunity to get back into the fourth spot. Despite how bad Roma have played they still find themselves very much in the race for top 4. It will be the second meeting of the season between these Italian football heavyweights. In the first meeting at the San Siro an AC Milan late stoppage time goal handed Roma their first loss of the season. Both sides have been relatively up-and-down this season with some consistency issues as well as some injury problems. Eusebio di Francesco is coaching for his job on Sunday night poor results will signify the end as his tenure in the capital. Will AC Milan New signing Piatek stay hot 4 favorites AC Milan or will Roma find a way to pull off an upset in a much-needed result we will find out on Sunday night in the Serie A game of the week at the Stadio Olimpico.
The big news coming into the game for Roma and Edin Dzeko will not face a lengthy ban and will be eligible to play the game. According to the referee during the alleged spitting incident Edin Dzeko was sent off inappropriate language directed at the referee. Edin Dzeko will serve a two-match ban and the Coppa Italia as well as paying a $10,000 fine. I do not necessarily agree with it but Roma is in really bad shape right now and need Edin Dzeko specifically. There may be a chance that Cengiz Under plays but I find it unlikely that he has already returned from his thigh injury. The hope is Roma can get him back as soon as possible but it is unclear at the moment what his condition is. This is the biggest match of the season Roma have to play their strongest team they possibly can. Roma defense is not particularly strong I wouldn’t make any changes to it ahead of the match on Sunday. Daniele De Rossi came off the bench on Wednesday and if he is ready to go I think you have to give him the green light. However, I still think it’s unlikely he is ready for a full 90 minutes so I see the defensive Midfield also staying the same with Bryan Cristante and Steven Nzonzi as a holding midfielder. I would consider starting Justin Kluivert but I would probably stick with the same three we saw this week. Lorenzo Pellegrini needs to be in the Midfield because of his vision and his high level of intelligence. Nicolo Zaniolo has it been a rising star for Roma so I find it unlikely he will be dropped for the game. Stephan El Shaarawy and Justin Kluivert are extremely fast players and that might be the best way to break down AC Milan but given El Shaarawy’s history against them having scored against them multiple times since his departure from the San Siro. Not to mention he has scored in two consecutive games in the league I think he gets the nod. Despite that, I think Justin Kluivert could play a big role coming off the bench. In Roma Striker position I see Patrik Schick getting the start. Even though Edin Dzeko’s red card does not apply for the for this match I think it’s possible that Roma will bench him for the first half because of the situation. My key player for this match is a Bryan Cristante. He was a former AC Milan a youth product that AC Milan gave up on I think Roma’s talented young midfielder will be looking for blood and revenge against his former side. In an emotional match like this you never know he just might get it.
AC Milan is a different-looking team than before the winter break. Gonzalo Higuain has been sent to Chelsea on loan and Piatek has arrived from Genoa. This gives AC Milan explosive options coming forward. An AC Milan to victory against Napoli saw their new signing score twice. AC Milan has much improved over the last few weeks their Midfield is playing exceptionally well Bakayoko, in particular, has been unbelievable. AC Milan giving all of this still have a decision to make. It is unclear whether they will change formation to suit AC Milan’s two Strikers but it’s very possible they’re going to have to start one or the other it’s a very difficult decision to make. Patrick Cutrone scored the game-winner in stoppage-time last time these two teams met up. However, on the other hand Piatek is coming off an absolutely wonderful performance against Napoli. Gattuso does not seem like the type who will change his formation given the circumstances. He kind of wants to play things safe because fourth place is under threat if this game does not go well. Ultimately despite Piatek excellent start to life at AC Milan. The smart choice is to have him as an option off the bench. Patrick Cutrone has scored in his last two games against Roma and has a been a dominating figure in both of their wins against them this year and last year. A formation change is possible but I think it’s unlikely you can maybe play them together but the entire formation would have to change. Both could play really big rolls on Sunday. However, my key player for AC Milan is Bakayoko in the last few weeks there are very few midfielders in Italian football who are in better form he is playing with much more maturity intelligence and courage. He struggled at the very beginning of the seasons trying to grasp Italian football but he has gotten the hang of it and has been one of the best midfielders over the last month. His role that he can play in the Midfield could completely dictate the match.
The Stadio Olimpico has been somewhat of a fortress for Roma this season. As inconsistent as they have been they have only lost one game at home this season. That is a true talking point of the match they will have their fans on the side and automatically will give them the advantage because the Stadio Olimpico is not an easy place to play. With that being said AC Milan have to like their position right now they’re playing really good football they have a lot of young talent and the team is finally progressing in the right direction. Milan could create some create more separation from the rest of the teams chasing down the fourth position they have momentum confidence and have gone to the Stadio Olimpico and won games before. These teams split the season series last season but are important to mention that AC Milan the win did not come at the San Siro it came at the Stadio Olimpico. On the other hand, Roma is coming off of two really bad games it is quite possible they turn up for this much important match. Many times this season in which Roma has not played too well they have been able to deliver when the big game has arrived. Going into the Lazio game and the Napoli game earlier this season Roma were not in good shape and found a way to get points in both games. DiFrancesco job is hanging in the balance based on the results of this match. If you looked at those teams individually Roma probably has the slightly better team on paper but AC Milan has been playing better collectively. After the way Roma have looked over the last two games it is hard to believe that they’re going to find a way to slow down AC Milan. AC Milan does not have the most potent offense You could argue Roma’s attack at their best is better than the one Milan has to offer. But the defensive deficiencies that Roma has dealt with could be their downfall. We all know Robin Olsen as a spectacular goalkeeper but if pressured his defense makes mistakes it will play into AC Milan’s hands. Roma’s defense has conceded 10 goals in the last two games 7 in the Florentina game alone. AC Milan has better attacking options than Florentina does if they can pick their spots and find the holes in the defense AC Milan should find a way to win this game. From the Roma perspective if they can control the Midfield with Bryan Cristante and Steven Nzonzi and they hit Milan on the counter with the pace that they have on the outside it’s possible Roma can steal a point. I quite honestly don’t see a scenario in which Roma wins the game but taking a point off AC Milan given what their defense looks like could be looked at as a tremendous success. There are two people in particular on Roma who will have a point to prove Stephan El Shaarawy and Bryan Cristante two players I believe AC Milan ultimately gave up on. If they use that to their advantage as motivation then maybe just maybe a win is possible but I still think it’s highly unlikely. Even though I think it’s highly unlikely a win for Roma would take them to fourth place it’s really difficult for me to believe it will happen but if they can come together collectively and put in a great performance it is achievable. However, I think in all likelihood AC Milan have everything going for them Roma, unfortunately, do not have that luxury.
Roma’s Projected starting XI 4-3-2-1
GK: Robin Olsen
DEF: Alex, Kolarov, Federico Fazio, Kostas Manolas, Alexandro Florenzi
DEF MID: Bryan Cristante, Steven Nzonzi
ATT MID: Stephen El Shaarawy, Nicolo Zaniolo, Lorenzo Pellegrini
Striker: Patrik Schick
Manager: Eusebio Di Francesco
Milan’s Projected starting 11 4-3-3
MID: Paqueta, Bakayoko,Kessie
Front Three: Castillejo, Cutrone,Suso
Manager: Gennaro Gattuso
Players to Watch
Date: Sunday, February 2nd, 2018
Venue: Stadio Olimpico,Rome
Kickoff: 1:30PM (USA) 7:30PM (ENG), 8:30PM (ITA)
TV Broadcast: Sky Itaila, ESPN+