If ever there was a time for Aurelio Andreazzoli to make his mark, this is surely it, as first place Juventus, you know, the team that's only lost 3 times all year, come to town to take on free-falling Roma side. There's really no way around it, this is gonna be ugly.
So is there hope? Can AA at least mitigate this disaster and save us all some collective face?
What can you even say? Juventus dominated the match from the jump, tallying 20 shots, 8 of which were on target and a further two glanced off the woodwork. Juve held the lion's share of possession, completed 86% of their passes and was efficient and effective in nearly all facets of the game, creating chances from the run of play, from set pieces and on the counter.
But Pablo Osvaldo's penalty in the 86th minute (ironic?) was all Roma could muster, as goals from Andrea Pirlo and Arturo Vidal had the match all but sealed by the 16th minute, with Alessandro Matri and Sebastian Giovinco adding two more for good measure. Although Napoli are close on their heels (5 points adrift), it's hard to imagine anyone but The Old Lady taking the honors this season.
The second match of the Andreazzoli mini-era is a tall task, home field advantage notwithstanding, and the statistical advantages Juve hold over Roma are not lost on Mr. Andreazzoli:
One-sided match? That's what the stats say, Juventus are definitely ahead of us in every area. They're really well organized: you can see the great job Conte's done there, and I must congratulate him on that. It's a pleasure to watch and analyze their team, where what they work on during the week in training is always visible in their play. My team's ability is not however reflected in the table for a number of reasons. We should take these into account. We're preparing for the match in unbelievable detail, but it remains to be seen if we can pull it off.
I have to say I agree with Andreazzoli, as I'm sure many of us do, the team is surely more talented than ninth place. The problem, of course, is that the game isn't played on paper and for someone with as much experience as an assistant, I don't doubt Andreazzoli's ability to analyze oppositions and prepare a team accordingly, but in this instance, Juve is better both on paper and pitch.
Juventus has a whopping +34 goal differential thanks to their league high 50 goals, so how will AA attempt to dismantle a defense that has only allowed 16 goals all season?
Well it won't be easy, that's for sure, even under the best of circumstances, in which Roma do not currently find themselves. With the news that Leandro Castan will be sidelined for six weeks, Nicolas Burdisso and Marquinhos will anchor the center of defense, which is all well and good, but could be troublesome if Andreazzoli opts for the 3-5-2, which, as we saw last week, left Marquinhos on an island far too often against Sampdoria. Under Zeman, the main concern with the defense was simply the degree to which they could bend but not break, there was no real debate about who or how many of them would be back there.
Andreazzoli's defense, however, appears to spark different controversies in its early goings, that's not even including the trio of centerbacks he yielded last week. With news that Dodo is out and the exclusion of Ivan Piris and Vasilis Torosidis last week, the composition of the defense, in terms of formation and personnel, after a mere two weeks, is already generating debate not seen under Zeman. With ZZ, you knew it would be Balzaretti, Castan, Marquinhos and Piris, now, who knows?
Much like last week, the early indication points towards a 4-3-1-2, with a defense of Torosidis, Burdisso, Marquinhos and Balzaretti. While that quartet is fine in and of itself, it's a bit odd that Piris, one of the clubs best defenders, is suddenly left out, all the more so if it's a three man defense. Granted crossing isn't his strong suit, but he's a solid enough two way player that he should be included in most formations.
As for the midfield and attack, with Mattia Destro's continued absence and the uncertainty of Pablo Osvaldo's for this week, it looks like what was rumored last week, Miralem Pjanic in the hole behind Francesco Totti and Erik Lamela, might actually come to fruition against the Old Lady.
Meanwhile, the trio of midfielders behind the attack also remains shrouded in mystery. While Daniele De Rossi is once again a fixture, the remaining two slots are subject for debate. After being given the nod last week, Michael Bradley should resume his usual role in the starting XI, with the final spot being left for either Alessandro Florenzi or Marquinho. If Andreazzoli's substitution pattern from last week is any indication, anyone in the midfield not named De Rossi has, at most, 60-70 minutes in which to make an impact.
After only one incredibly disappointing match, it's nearly impossible to draw any conclusions or make any predictions about what an Andreazzoli team will look like, but thus far, he certainly seems open to adaptations.
But when you're facing a team of Juventus' quality, those adaptations must be sprinkled with a healthy dose of luck and friendly officiating.
Juventus'3-5-2 formation, anchored by the inimitable Andrea Pirlo, leads the league in both possession and passing and goals scored. While their defense, led by Giorgio Chiellini's nose, are conceding a league low 9.5 shots per game and have been Italy's toughest defense, conceding only 16 goals.
The attack is remarkably balanced, as Juve have six players with at least five goals, paced by Fabio Quagliarella's seven. The Old Lady's forward prong are averaging a league leading 19.3 shots per game, a league leading 7.3 shots on target per game, and are second in the league with 11.6 successful dribbles per game, all while fielding eight Italian internationals.
As much as we try to stay positive, or at the very least neutral, in these previews, Juventus is good at football; Roma (lately) is not. So if you're new to the Roma band wagon, you might want to avert your gaze for a few hours, it's, uh, gonna be ugly.
But if you're one of those optimistic types, you can take heart in Lamela's improving form and hope that Pjanic flourishes as a trequartista...and that's really about it, Juventus simply does not have any glaring weaknesses, least of all consistency; you won't catch Juve napping.
Other than your choice of Italian football teams, how's your 2013 going?