Serie A Injury and Suspension Report – Round 26

Atalanta: Rafael Toloi will miss the next game due to a hamstring strain, while Berat Djimsiti with a bruised quad.

Bologna: Ibrahima Mbaye is suspended. The infirmary is emptying out since Nicola Sansone, Gary Medel and Federico Santander are poised to be available following thigh strains, Roberto Soriano after a bruise, leaving only Mitchell Dijks (foot), Ladislav Krejci (knee) and Mattias Svanberg (thigh) on the shelf. Continue reading

Serie A Team of the Week – Roma

Just only truly commanding performance out of the reduced slate of games over the weekend and it belong to Roma, which needed to quash a lot of doubts surrounding them after a three-game losing streak and did it in the best possible way, by deep-sixing an in-form opponent such as Lecce.

Paulo Fonseca trotted out Bruno Peres at right back, with Cengiz Under, picked over Carles Perez and Justin Kluivert, in front of him on that flank, while Lorenzo Pellegrini returned at no.10 with Bryan Cristante back in the XI and Aleksandar Kolarov, after ceding some playing time to Leonardo Spinazzola, manned the left defensive flank. Continue reading

Three Reasons Behind Roma’s Slump

After a relatively decent first-half to the season, Roma have hit a rough patch and now find themselves six points adrift Atalanta for the fourth and final Champions League spot. Earlier in the year, it appeared the giallorossi were establishing a clear identity under Paulo Fonseca and were building a solid foundation for years to come. However, in recent times, Roma have struggled for results, losing three of their last four clashes and are in free-fall mode.

But how exactly did we get here? Here are three reasons behind Roma’s slump.

1) No Diawara, no party. 

After a great start to the season, Amadou Diawara went down injured at the end of January and is now out for an undisclosed period of time. Alongside Jordan Veretout, the former Napoli man established himself as one of Fonseca’s key players and typically played in the role of regista dictating play from deep. Without him in the lineup, Roma have struggled to build out of the back and have looked defensively suspect. Diawara was central to Fonseca’s system and essentially acted as the lynchpin that tied it all together in the middle.

His replacement, Bryan Cristante, hasn’t exactly performed when called upon and is currently struggling for form. Whether it’s his imprecision on the ball or his inefficiency in front of goal, the downgrade from Diawara to Cristante is hurting Roma.

While Diawara’s return is unknown for now, Fonseca is going to need to find a solution quickly. If not, Roma risk falling out of contention for a Champions League place and could be eliminated from the Europa League.

2) Centre-backs are making routine errors. 

Following Kostas Manolas’ departure to Napoli, many expected the giallorossi to spend big to replace the Greek international. Rather than splashing the cash on a new defender, Roma opted for a low-cost option and loaned Manchester United defender Chris Smalling. The Englishman started the season in phenomenal form and for the first half of the season looked like the signing of the summer. However, in the new year, his good performances quickly faded and began making routine mistakes at the back.

His partner, Gianluca Mancini, has endured a very similar start to 2020. The former Atalanta defender has looked increasingly shaky at the back and devoid of any confidence. In Roma’s most recent games, Mancini has been regularly beaten by his man and hasn’t exactly exhibited confidence. In fact, in the giallorossi’s last three games, they’ve conceded nine goals, losing to Bologna, Sassuolo and direct Champions League rivals Atalanta.

While Mancini and Smalling had great starts to the season and looked more than ready to assume bigger roles, their respective shortcomings have now caught up to them. Much like it was the case in midfield, Roma will regret not reinforcing further this past January.

3) Roma’s attack is filled with “nearly-men” 

While Roma are having no trouble finding the back of the net in this negative run, their front-line remains an inconsistent bunch. This leads to regular rotation and overall incoherence in the final third. On some nights, Lorenzo Pellegrini and Cengiz Under look like world-beaters while other games, they can barely string two passes together. See: Most recent defeat vs. Atalanta.

Nicolo Zaniolo’s injury significantly hampered Roma in this respect, but it’s time one of their youngsters on the cusp steps up and builds a partnership with club veteran Edin Dzeko. Whether it’s Kluivert, Pellegrini or Under, one of them needs to assume more responsibility in the final third. If they are unable to do so, it may be time for the giallorossi to reconsider and in some cases move on from them completely because right now their “nearly-men” are killing them.

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Serie A Fantasy Preview – Round 23

Atalanta-Roma: the Goddess continue to add to their offensive arsenal, as Duvan Zapata is returning two his usual pre-injury numbers (two goals and three assists in the last four games) and Ruslan Malinovskyi came through last week. The Ukrainian attacker seems to have surpassed Luis Muriel as first option off the bench. Josip Ilicic did not score against Fiorentina, but still had a great performance and he has been en fuego for a while. The one small negative is that, with their front-line now featuring two quality scorers, Alejandro Gomez is back at looking more to feed them rather than finishing on his own: as a matter of fact he set up two goals last week and has not hit the net since in six weeks. Timothy Castagne came back and he is a bigger offensive weapon than the more diligent Hans Hateboer, but they will likely continue to alternate, while Robin Gosens on the opposite flank is slowing down a bit after a gorgeous January. Mario Pasalic fumbled away a pair of sitters in Florence. Rafael Toloi (one goal and six assists) has been their most intriguing defender. Continue reading

Serie A Injury and Suspension Report – Round 23

Atalanta: Marten De Roon is suspended, newcomer Tomas Sutalo is out for a month with a foot injury.

Bologna: Andrea Poli is disqualified. Nicola Sansone suffered a hamstring strain, Federico Santander a hip muscle one and they will both miss three-to-four weeks. No returns among the previously injured Gary Medel (hamstring) and Ladislav Krejci (knee).

Brescia: Ernesto Torregrossa is out due to yellow-card accumulation. Andrea Cistana  and Sandro Tonali dealt with some muscle fatigue but should be good to go.  Continue reading

Serie A Match of the Round – Sassuolo vs Roma

Sassuolo-Roma was the highest scoring match of the week alongside Sampdoria-Napoli and had a very weird development, as the Neroverdi manhandled La Lupa in the first half, but then Edin Dzeko and company tried to mount a furious comeback after intermission, only to be railroaded by red card to Lorenzo Pellegrini and a stunner by Jeremie Boga. It all made for a very entertaining bout.

The home team had picked up four points in the previous two fixtures against Sassuolo and Torino, while Roma had done the same following two losses, versus Genoa and Lazio. Continue reading

Serie A Match of the Round – Derby della Capitale

Napoli-Juventus was likely a little more intense and significant, but it already got extensive coverage in another column, so the nod for match of the round goes to the Derby between Roma and Lazio, which was not exactly one of the ages but always carries gargantuan magnitude.

La Lupa came into the match looking to build on last week’s easy win over Genoa, which had interrupted a two-game slump, while the Eagles were riding a 11-match winning streak that had commenced back in late October. They were coming off a rout against Sampdoria. Continue reading

Five big questions facing Lazio and Roma ahead of a momentous Rome Derby

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The biggest fixture on the Roman football calendar returns on Sunday, when Roma look to close the gap on their high-flying neighbours Lazio at the Stadio Olimpico.

But what are the major talking points?

1. How will Lazio cope with the favourites tag?

Derby matches are synonymous with clichés about the ‘form book going out the window’, but the Roman version has helped prove that adage to be true over the years.

You don’t have to look too far to find examples of the team in worse form winning the Derby della Capitale, but rarely has the gap between the two sides’ form been as pronounced as it is going into Sunday’s meeting. Continue reading

Serie A Fantasy Picks – Round 21

Bartlomiej Dragowski: after a long period of time where they always conceded, Fiorentina have kept two clean sheets in a row and their young goalie shined. They will host Genoa this week, which have scored more than once in just one of the last five rounds. Among their defenders, Pol Lirola is finally on the up-and-up.

Matthijs De Ligt: the starlet has been impressive in the last few matches and, while the Juventus defence has had troubles blanking opponents, they rarely give up multiple goals and could be able to contain Napoli’s stammering attack in check. Continue reading

Serie A Fantasy Preview – Round 21

Brescia-Milan: the Rondinelle will not have Mario Balotelli for a couple of matches, but Ernesto Torregrossa has actually carried the load scoring-wise recently and he and Alfredo Donnarumma formed a formidable partnership last season in Serie B, so they might be able to survive the blow. They have added two intriguing pieces in January in Birkir Bjarnason, who was very dangerous for a midfielder in his time in Pescara, and Simon Skrabb: they should both have their chances because Nikolas Spalek at no.10 has been pretty inconsistent. Sandro Tonali is coming off a two-assist performance and also Stefano Sabelli and Romulo have been decently proficient in a supporting role. Continue reading