Torino come to town tomorrow night, sharing the Serie A spotlight with Roma in a rare Monday night encounter. With only three points separating the two sides, expect a tense, possibly rain-soaked match, as Roma attempt to claw their way up the table.
If I told you that Roma was only a mere three points ahead of recently promoted Torino, would you be: A) Surprised, B) Angry, or C) Relieved?
Well, following the derby loss, Roma rests in 7th place, only three points ahead of 13th place Torino. Making matters worse, a victory on Monday would see Roma vault only to 6th place, so there's still a steep climb to respectability, making this yet another critical match.
Neither Roma nor Torino enter this rare Monday night fixture in fine form, with Roma dropping three of their last four and Torino winning only one of their last six matches. The similarities don't end there either, with Torino sporting a +3 goal differential, compared to Roma's +5, though they are merely proportional, as Roma has banged home 15 more goals than Torino.
Torino also has a few familiar faces on their squad, with former Roma midfielders Matteo Brighi and Alessio Cerci now donning the colors of il Granata, both of whom have become squad regulars. Beyond that, everyone's favorite would be Roma center back, Angelo Ogbonna, has arguably been Torino's best player thus far, averaging 3.6 interceptions per game, good for fifth in the league. Forward Rolando Bianchi is also off to a fine start, scoring 4 of Torino's 13 goals, as is midfielder Alessandro Gazzi, whose 55.3 passes per game places him the top 20, ahead of Daniele De Rossi and Panagiotis Tachtsidis.
Torino features your basic 4-4-2, which neither thrills nor falters and maintains roughly 50% possession, while completing 83% of their passes. So they are what their numbers suggest, a middling team in terms of possession and shots per game, and fourth from bottom in terms of goals scored. In fact, there have been less than 2.5 goals scored in 5 of their last 6 away matches, all of which they have drawn. They're very much a middle of the road, what you see, is what you get, sort of club.
However, on the backs of Obgonna, Salvatore Masiello, and Matteo Darmian, Torino's defense has been rather tough, conceding only 10 goals, second best in the league. But fresh off a three year Serie A absence, mid table is probably their best case scenario.
So what about our nearly mid table club?
Roma welcome Torino to the Olimpico missing the services of the suspended De Rossi, Tachtsidis and Nicolas Burdisso, once again making Monday's midfield mix intriguing.
Without DDR and Copy and Paste, Zeman will be forced to choose three of the following four: Michael Bradley, Alessandro Florenzi, Marquinho1, or Miralem Pjanic. Early reports feature both Bradley/Florenzi/Marquinho and Bradley/Florenzi/Pjanic combinations...so who knows, apparently nailing a free kick and subsequently giving your boss the stink eye isn't the best way to do business.
Up front, Erik Lamela is entering the ‘most dangerous player on the pitch' territory with each passing week, having scored eight goals in the last nine matches, including his current, one-shy of the club record, six game scoring streak. Lamela has also managed an 8+ rating in five of his last six matches, the derby being the lone exception.
Mattia Destro has made this week's squad list, but look for the usual Francesco Totti, Pablo Osvaldo, Lamela front line. With Torino's surprisingly strong defense, can Totti and PDO get Lamela his 7-in-7?
At the back, Maarten Stekelenburg has been left out of the squad list, paving the way for Mauro Goicoechea to earn some slight redemption from last week. Providing the Uruguayan with cover should be Ivan Piris, Marquinho2, Federico Balzaretti, and Leandro Castan, the latter making his first appearance since the Parma Match.
As is usually the case, the drama off the pitch has exceeded the actual match action, truncated this week by the De Rossi Dilemma, with everyone from Franco Baldini to De Rossi's ex-wife chiming in on DDR's future in Rome. For now, it appears the rumors are at bay and the parties will continue on with their decade long partnership, leaving PSG and City twisting in the wind.
I'd caution you not to take too much away from Roma's recent rain soaked matches, but with Monday's forecast cast calling for a 50% chance of rain, we might have to get used a slightly saturated Zemanlandia.