Milan-Roma Preview: Positive Start?

With dozens of players in Serie A currently testing positive for COVID-19 after the Christmas break, the league insists this week's matches will be played. They have clearly learned absolutely nothing from the past two years. Postponing a couple of week's matches would allow the outbreak to slow enough to prevent a complete shutdown. Having made new restrictions that require all of the players and staff to be vaccinated by January was too little, too late. Worse still, in addition to the normal injuries, many teams are missing players to the African Cup of Nations (AFCON.) Assuming this match is played, will it be a positive start?

A year ago October, this fixture was played without fans, an eerie reminder

Mourinho's Roma have sputtered through this season with some very big losses, but were finally beginning to string together some results and climb the table before the break. They come into this match in sixth place with 32 points, ten points behind Milan and only ahead of Fiorentina on goal differential. Their last match before the holidays was a 1-1 draw with Sampdoria. For that match, Mourinho lined up Rui Patricio; Mancini, Smalling, Ibañez; our old pal Cristante; Karsdorp, Veretout, Mikhitaryan, Viña; Abraham and Zaniolo. 

For this match, Mourinho will be happy to have Pellegrini back, who has recovered from his injury and should be available to start. As of this writing, there are four Roma players who are currently COVID-19 positive, including Mayoral and Fuzato. Rumor has it that there is another player in the squad who refuses to get vaccinated, and under the new stadium policies will be unable to play. Spinazzola is out injured still, and although El Shaarawy was in doubt due to fitness, he seems to have recovered and should be available. Bench players Diawara and Darboe are representing their respective countries at AFCON. 

Fans remind Roma of their humiliating loss to Hauge's former team, Bodø-Glimt

Pioli has a midfield headache as Kessié and Bennacer are both at AFCON, and he will also be missing backup left back Ballo-Touré to the tournament. This represents the first of six matches without them, three matches which are against top six teams, including Roma, Juventus, and Inter. Additionally, obviously Kjaer is out for the season, and Pellegri and Plizzari are also still out injured. Tatarusanu and another unnamed player have tested positive for COVID-19. 

The great news is that Ibrahimović, Rebić, Leão, and Calabria have all recovered from their injuries. But that still leaves a gaping hole next to Tonali in the midfield for opposition teams to take advantage of us, particularly when Bakayoko is likely to be lined up there. His errors have been very costly in his limited playing time this season. Krunić is another possibility, but Pioli has preferred him in a more attacking role this year. Florenzi is also likely to start against the club that owns him, which is also the club of his heart. However, with the way they have treated him, I have doubts that he will have any problem punishing them.

Florenzi ended 2021 in style, can he repeat his performance vs. his home club?

Milan most recently faced Roma at the end of October at the Stadio Olimpico in a very eventful match that saw Maresca give a record high 11 cards for this season. That saw him suspended for three matches, but the match was impacted. We managed to win 2-1 in spite of ending on ten men, while conceding a late goal by the hands of our ex, El Shaarawy. But that was two very long months ago in terms of injuries, results, and of course, COVID-19 positive players.

With the sheer number of COVID-19 cases increasing almost hourly throughout Serie A, it is incredibly irresponsible of the league to go ahead with these matches. Why, after two years of this virus, they did not leave a quarantine period for players coming back from holiday parties and vacations all over the world is beyond me. But forcing the players who do not currently have the virus to play under these circumstances is ridiculous. Teams who are still suffering from the economic problems caused by playing behind closed doors for a year will suffer more if the league has to shut down completely or play with no fans at all again. While we all want to see our teams play, this is not the positive start that we hoped for.

This post inspired by the music of The Prodigy's "Take Me to the Hospital"

Serie A Week 20
Milan vs. Roma
Thursday, January 6 • 18:30 CET (12:30pm EST)
This match can be streamed LIVE on Paramount+ in the U.S.
Or viewed on CBS Sports Network

Milan-Roma Preview: Positive Start? Milan-Roma Preview: Positive Start? Reviewed by Elaine on 4:00 AM Rating: 5
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