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Talk about three the easy way. Instead of playing a match behind closed doors, Roma were gifted three points following Cagliari’s, shall we say, Presidential oversight. The added bonus is that Roma, originally scheduled to play three matches within ten days, received some much need recuperation time, allowing Francesco Totti, Daniele De Rossi, and Michael Bradley to return in time for Wednesday’s home match against Sampdoria. Though the question remains, does Roma get to keep its frequent flier miles from their wasted trip to Sardinia?
With that non-sense behind us, let’s talk about the order of the day: Sampdoria v Roma.
Sampdoria travel south to the Olimpico, fresh off a 1-1 weekend draw with Torino. Sampdoria, newly promoted from Serie B, currently sit a surprising 4th in the table, two points ahead of Roma.
It’s usually at these points in the previews where we say how inept the opposing offense is and how they have no hope of keeping up with Roma, but Sampdoria have banged home seven goals, good for third most in the league (tied with Roma and Lazio). So this isn’t a simple matter of scoring two goals and calling it a day, this could easily be a six or seven goal thriller.
So how has Sampdoria managed their seven goals? Two words: Maxi Lopez, the Argentine forward has managed three goals already this term, equaling his tally for Catania last season (he scored one for Milan as well). Lopez sits in the middle of the Sampdoria trident, flanked by Marcelo Estigarribia and one of either Eder or Nenad Kristicic. Though early reports indicate that Lopez will miss this match, so look for Nicola Pozzi to take his spot.
Sampdoria, much like Roma and their last would be opponent, Cagliari, feature a wide attacking 4-3-3, usually flowing from the right towards the center, again putting the defensive spotlight on Ivan Piris, which will most likely be a recurring theme this season. Unlike Roma, however, Sampdoria has been deadly from set pieces this year, as three of their seven goals have come from the spot, as well as an additional goal via penalty.
So what does that tell us? If nothing else, they attack the 18 yard box with aplomb and are adept are drawing fouls. But it could also indicate that, while their movement is succinct and effective, their finishing is not. And as much as they’ve lived by the set piece, scoring three, they’d died by the set piece, conceding two goals.
It’s an intriguing matchup for sure, on the one hand you have a team in Sampdoria, stingy in the run of play (1 goal allowed) and proficient in set pieces (3 goals scored), while on the other hand you have a team in Roma, flourishing in open play (7 goals) and stingy from the spot (1 goal allowed).
So this match will either be an open, high scoring affair or come down to a gut wrenching last minute set piece. There is no middle ground, this ain’t gonna be a 1-1 snoozer.
As far as actual Roma team news, the biggest and best is obviously the return of Totti, DDR and Bradley, as well as the extra rest afforded to Leandro Castan and Federico Balzaretti by the Cagliari forfeit. While being gifted three points is nice, we were robbed the chance to see the next great Roman triumvirate of Mattia Destro, Erik Lamela and Nico Lopez on display, as the trio were slated to start against Cagliari. Though without the services of Pablo Osvaldo, two of those three still figure to start alongside Totti.
While the usual back four of Piris, Balzaretti, Castan and Nicolas Burdisso figure to start, how Zeman organizes the midfield remains to be seen. Bradley got the nod on opening day, but the duo of Panagiotis Tachtsidis and Alessandro Florenzi have performed exceedingly well in his absence, while De Rossi has not played since September 7th against Bulgaria. Though if truly fit, it’s hard to imagine DDR being left out, leaving one starting spot beyond De Rossi and presumably Miralem Pjanic.
We are three actual and one theoretical match into Zemanlandia 2.0, and if we’ve learned anything, it’s that predictions are hard to make. But with Roma’s thoroughbreds back on track, you have to like the Giallorossi’s chances, whether it’s an end-to-end 90 minute track meet or a study in set pieces.
One thing is for certain, however, the doors to the Olimpico will be open.
ROMA (4-3-3): 24 Stekelenburg, 23 Piris, 29 Burdisso, 5 Castan, 42 Balzaretti, 48 Florenzi, 16 De Rossi, 15 Pjanic, 8 Lamela, 22 Destro, 10 Totti.
SAMPDORIA (4-3-3): 22 Romero; 13 Berardi, 28 Gastaldello, 35 Rossini, 3 Costa; 11 Munari, 4 Maresca, 12 Tissone; 2 Estigarribia, 9 Pozzi, 23 Eder.