After back-to-back wins at home, Roma take to the road on Tuesday, when they meet Serie A’s bottom club Cremonese at Stadio Giovanni Zini.
Having kept up the pace in their pursuit of a top-four finish and secured a place in the Europa League’s last 16, the Giallorossi now tackle a winless home side that seem destined for a quick return to Serie B.
With the opening leg in Austria having ended 1-0 in favour of RB Salzburg, when Roma filed out at Stadio Olimpico on Thursday they needed to turn the tie around if their Europa League journey was not to be halted at the first knockout stage.
Goals in the first half from Andrea Belotti – who has yet to find the net in Serie A since joining from Torino – and attacking talisman Paulo Dybala proved enough to secure safe passage from the playoff round, and Jose Mourinho’s men were subsequently drawn against Real Sociedad in the last 16.
Four days earlier, Roma had taken care of business against Serie A strugglers Hellas Verona, again keeping a clean sheet; edging to victory courtesy of Ola Solbakken’s first goal for the club, scored on the brink of half time.
They have now won 11 league matches by a 1-0 scoreline under Mourinho – including one in August’s reverse fixture against Cremonese – and since the start of last season only Barcelona and Real Sociedad have racked up more throughout Europe’s top five leagues.
While, in the coming months, last year’s Europa Conference League winners will have one eye on replicating that feat in the continent’s second-tier competition, their main aim will surely be to cement a top-four finish amid stiff competition from several other contenders.
Form certainly suggests that the Giallorossi should have little problem in continuing that quest with a win on Tuesday evening, but their most recent encounter with Cremonese, in the Coppa Italia, brought a shock 2-1 loss at the Olimpico.
Soon after his appointment to the top job at Stadio Zini, Cremonese coach Davide Ballardini engineered a second cup upset in quick succession by leading his side to victory over Roma, but he has yet to get them over the line for a first Serie A win since promotion.
While the Grigiorossi can look forward to a Coppa Italia semi-final against Fiorentina, having also eliminated league leaders Napoli on the road to the final four, they are enduring a humbling streak without success in Italy’s top flight.
Last week’s 2-2 draw with Torino – in which they came from behind thanks to strikes from Frank Tsadjout and Emanuele Valeri before conceding a 79th-minute equaliser – means Cremonese have equalled the longest winless run ever recorded in Serie A: 30 matches, along with Ancona.
That miserable sequence stretches back to when they last reached the top tier over 20 years ago, but if anything their league fortunes have declined even more sharply since the start of 2023.
The Lombardy club have picked up just two points from eight games since the turn of the year – during that time, only Hoffenheim have earned fewer across the top five European leagues – and with the gap between them and safety into double figures, they are relying on a miracle to avoid demotion.
As Juventus will visit Stadio Olimpico on Sunday, and Roma have been involved in an intense European tie over the past two weeks, Jose Mourinho could make some changes to his starting lineup on Tuesday.
At a minimum, one switch is required in defence, with Chris Smalling sidelined by suspension and Marash Kumbulla standing ready as his replacement.
Meanwhile, Georginio Wijnaldum should start in central midfield, and Stephan El Shaarawy might come in so Paulo Dybala can be rested before meeting his former club. Up front, Andrea Belotti competes for selection with Tammy Abraham, who must wear a mask to protect an eye injury sustained against Verona.
While Belotti is on his longest run without a goal in Serie A (22 games, 701 minutes), Abraham has failed to score in his last six Serie A matches against promoted sides, having netted four in his first four.
Cremonese’s Cyriel Dessers has been involved in three of just five home goals scored by the hosts this season, but he could be edged out again by Frank Tsadjout and David Okereke, who are set to be paired up front. Ex-Roma forward Felix Afena-Gyan should join Dessers on the bench.
With Johan Vasquez returning from suspension and most probably slotting back into defence, the continued absence of Vlad Chiriches – the Grigiorossi’s only fitness concern – will not be as keenly felt by Davide Ballardini.
Cremonese possible starting lineup:
Carnesecchi; Ferrari, Bianchetti, Vasquez; Sernicola, Benassi, Pickel, Meite, Valeri; Tsadjout, Okereke
Roma possible starting lineup:
Patricio; Mancini, Kumbulla, Ibanez; Karsdorp, Wijnaldum, Cristante, Zalewski; Pellegrini, El Shaarawy; Abraham