Earlier this week we talked about the first 10 games of the latest Roman campaign, which, if they had two pervasive themes, would be consistency and hope.
Zeman chimed in on the first point, saying:
I heard some people say that the opening spell in the matches against Bologna and Udinese were the best they've seen Roma play. What we got wrong was not keeping up that sort of football for the whole 90 minutes. We must work together, aware of the kind of opposition we're facing.
So in addition to clamoring for some consistency from his players, his message, throughout all Roma's trials and tribulations, has also remained consistent; that we've yet to see his vision fully implemented, due in part to injuries, a lack of focus/effort and the occasional monsoon.
As for the second theme, hope, we already covered the statistical basis for optimism, so for now let's just hope it doesn't rain.
On to the match...
Palermo makes the trip to the mainland mired in 17th place, thanks in large part to their anemic offense, which has tallied only 8 goals. That's right, Roma have allowed more than double what Palermo has scored. They also lost their Burger King sponsorship, the ultimate insult added to injury.
Roma swept the series last season on the back of two 1-0 victories and have claimed three of the last six matches overall. Palermo doesn't enter this fixture in any better shape, having drawn four straight matches and failing to score in six of their last seven. Consider them the anti-Roma.
When you think of Palermo, two names come immediately to mind, Abel Hernandez and Fabrizio Miccoli. Hernandez is injured, but Miccoli is up to his usual tricks, notching 4 goals and 1 assist through the season's first 10 games, but for the most part its been Edgar Barreto steering the Palermo attack, such as it is.
The Paraguayan has averaged 60.8 passes per game, 2.1 of which have been key passes, good for 12th in the league, hitting on 83% of those passes. Palermo is also getting steady performances from Josip Illicic and Ezequiel Munoz. So while their numbers as a team aren't outstanding, they aren't exactly a pushover.
With Roma there are large picture questions plaguing the club seemingly every week. Thanks to a spate of injuries, we've been granted a bit of a reprieve, as the question this week is merely who will be on the field rather than how their performance will lead to the downfall of the club, city and nation.
One development sure to excite certain people around here sees Maarten Stekelenburg, thanks to injury, make way for Mauro Goicoechea. Time will tell if Stekelenburg becomes the Italian soccer version of Wally Pipp, but the devastatingly handsome Uruguayan gets his first start on European soil and, should he live up to his billing, Zeman might have another weekly debate on his hands.
I've long been a defender of Stekelenburg, and will continue to be, but if Goicoechea can do the job at a fraction of the cost, Marty's salary becomes harder and harder to justify.
As of Saturday night, several lineup spots remain in doubt. Mattia Destro has returned to fitness and could slot in between Erik Lamela and Francesco Totti. Rodrigo Taddei and his man thighs are ready to spring back into action and with uncertainty suddenly surrounding Leandro Castan's health, he might make another guest appearance on the backline.
Federico Balzaretti has also made this week's squad list and is no doubt eager to face his former club, but no indication has been given if he will get the start over Dodo and his fashionable line of headbands.
The midfield selection should, as always, be shrouded in Vatican Conclave style secrecy. Some outlets have the trio of Michael Bradley, Miralem Pjanic and Daniele De Rossi starting, though with a late week ankle injury, DDR should be a game time decision. There have also been reports of Bradley, Tachtsidis, Pjanic and Florenzi, Bradley, De Rossi combinations.
Zeman has bemoaned the lack of consistency in his squad and while some of the circumstances have been beyond his control, it's hard not to wonder if the constant rotation of the constituent parts of the midfield is contributing to the lack of cohesion on the pitch, resulting in the wild fluctuations we've seen in recent weeks.
"Great teams have their own way of playing and try to impose it in every game. And I'm trying to build a great team."
Those were among Zeman's closing words in his most recent press conference and most rational Roma fans would agree that this particular blue print will take more than 10 games. But if they are to repair the foundation that's been laid thus far, they have to win games against the likes of Palermo.
A world of possibilities is still at Roma's feet, Palermo are merely the first hurdle.