Genoa embark on a new era under an ambitious new manager, as they welcome troubled Roma to Stadio Luigi Ferraris on Sunday evening.
As Andriy Shevchenko makes his Serie A debut as the Grifone’s head coach, the goalscoring legend comes up against one of football’s most successful men, who has started to see the tide turn against him in the capital.
Outside the relegation zone only on goal difference following a run of nine matches without a win, Genoa’s new owners decided to bow to the inevitable and remove the long-suffering Davide Ballardini from his position as coach and appoint a Serie A superstar in his place.
Within a heartbeat of Ballardini slinking out of Marassi for the fourth time in his career, ex-Milan striker Andriy Shevchenko confirmed his return to the Italian peninsula as a manager, following a relatively successful stint in charge of his homeland, Ukraine, which ended after the Euros in the summer.
‘Sheva’ now meets former Chelsea colleague Jose Mourinho in his first game as leader of the Grifone and will be keen to repay the faith of the historic club’s new American owners, who brought the Ballon d’Or winner to Genoa after they recorded just one win in their first 12 league matches.
Not only are the Ligurian side in terrible trouble this term, but their last league win against Roma came as long ago as May 2014, and they have drawn only three and lost 11 of their meetings since then.
So, some 4,572 days after his last match as a Serie A player, Genoa’s new boss will be tasked with imparting his wisdom on a disheartened squad, ahead of the visit from an anxious Roma side.
A record of four league losses from six on the road – after their humbling 3-2 defeat to Venezia last time out – leaves Roma well off the pace in the Scudetto race, and sees them sitting just a point above the division’s ninth-placed team.
Coming soon after a rare home loss to Milan and the subsequent 2-2 draw with Europa League nemeses Bodo/Glimt, the Giallorossi may have been glad of the international break’s intervention, as the media glare surrounding their failures grew ever more intense.
The capital club’s current run of one win from seven in all competitions leaves them 13 points adrift of both Milan and Napoli, who top the table ahead of this weekend’s resumption, so Jose Mourinho’s thoughts will instead be trained on leading his squad to the minimum requirement of a European place.
To achieve that aim, Roma will surely have to accumulate as many wins as possible in away games such as Sunday’s, as they meet a team they have beaten in all three of their encounters since the start of 2020 by an aggregate score of 7-2.
As part of a seven-game spell during the next month in which they will face relatively modest opposition – the honourable exception of champions Inter aside – Mourinho will insist on starting with maximum points against a team managed by one of his many former players.
Genoa Serie A form:
Roma Serie A form:
Roma form (all competitions):
We say: Genoa 0-1 Roma
Both low on confidence, this could be a scrappy and nervy affair in the Ligurian capital, as the two sides battle it out for an increasingly rare three points.
Even the star power and ‘new manager effect’ will not be able to save Genoa from defeat on Sunday, though, as a makeshift side lacks the resources to contain a Roma team featuring a mix of experience and potential.