With 11 weeks remaining and European qualification of both varieties still within the realm of possibility, we take a look at how the road might unfold for Roma.
Don't look now, but Roma is once again the hottest team in the league. Whether it was by hook or by crook, by design or dumb chance, Aurelio Andreazzoli has steered Roma to three straight wins, nine-out-of-nine points, vaulting the Giallorossi to seventh place; in this context, take the term ‘vaulting' lightly. Nevertheless, it appears Roma has something to play for over the next 11 weeks.
While it's never a good idea to put the horse before the cart, it's the middle of the week and we haven't much else to discuss, so let's do some table watching. We'll start with a quick look at the remaining fixtures for Roma and her immediate adversaries
Roma's Remaining Fixtures:
March 9th: Udinese (A)
March 17th: Parma (H)
March 30th: Palermo (A)
April 7th: Lazio (H)
April 14th: Torino (A)
April 21st: Pescara (H)
April 28th: Siena (H)
May 5th: Fiorentina (A)
May 8th: Chievo (H)
May 12th: Milan (A)
May 19th: Napoli (H)
Looking at those remaining fixtures, two things stand out: First, Roma will face four of the teams currently ahead of them in the table (Lazio, Fiorentina, Milan and Napoli) from whom Roma has taken a collective six points, having defeated Milan and Fiorentina. So how the return legs play out is anyone's guess. The problem, as you can see, is that three out of Roma's last four matches are against Fiorentina, Milan and Napoli, with two out of the three coming on the road; which actually plays in Roma's favor, as the Giallorossi have taken 19 points on the road, fourth most in the league. Even so, that's a tough way to close out the season, chasing nine assuredly crucial points against three of the league's best sides.
Secondly, April is setting up pretty well for Roma, however, with three home matches, two of which are against bottom feeders Siena and Pescara. There is, of course, the small matter of the Derby to worry about, but Roma have an opportunity to distance themselves from the likes of Udinese and Catania, while hopefully gaining ground on Fiorentina and Inter, all before a brutal May closes out the season.
While looking above you isn't the best way to go about business, ignoring those below you is even more perilous. The only real threats to overtake Roma are Udinese and Catania, who square off against each other on March 16th. Catania is the more in-form team at the moment, having won two of their last three matches, but Gli Elefanti still have fixtures against Juve, Milan and Lazio awaiting them.
Udinese, meanwhile, have taken four points from their past three matches and have only two fixtures remaining against Italy's European contenders (Lazio and Inter) and, of course, Saturday's match against Roma.
So Udinese has, at least on the surface, the easier remaining schedule, while Catania is in better form. Either way, while we're looking up at Fiorentina and Inter, those two squads will surely have an eye on Roma.
Table watching doesn't discriminate, that's for sure.
Taking a quick look at those above us, Inter, while not on Roma's remaining fixture list, has six pointers against Juve, Napoli and Lazio remaining. Speaking of Roma's co-tenants, Lazio has home matches against Fiorentina and Juve left, with an "away" match against Roma and a trip to the Meazza on their docket, so there may be ground to be gained on that front, while the Derby will have some extra juice this time around.
But if you're looking for one club to steal Roma's thunder, look no further than Fiorentina. The Viola, currently two points above Roma, has Lazio and Milan as the only European contenders left on their fixture list. Want to make yourself sick? Take a look at Fiorentina's May schedule:
May 5th: Home vs Roma
May 8th: Away vs Siena
May 12th: Home vs Palermo
May 19th: Away vs Pescara
Yes, my friends, Fiorentina closes out the season against the three worst teams in the league, though two of those matches are on the road, where The Viola has only managed 12 points. Still, if you were a Viola fan, could you ask for an easier way to close out the season?
Needless to say, circle May 5th on your calendar and start saying your prayers.
While the Champions League is obviously the greater goal, given how turbulent this season has been, I suppose we should be thankful that Roma is even within a hair's breadth of European qualification. With a veritable six pointer against Udinese this weekend, we'll forgive you if you indulge in a bit of table watching, after all, it may be our only recourse.