Well, it wasn't esthetically pleasing, but Aurelio Andreazzoli's crew got the job down this past weekend, defeating and simultaneously closing the gap with fourth place Fiorentina. However, Milan defeating Torino might have put the kibosh on any lingering Champions League dreams percolating in Rome, and good thing, as the Europa League itself is far from secure. With Udinese hot on her heels, Roma must focus its efforts on conquering the Flying Donkeys of Chievo, this week's guests at the Stadio Olimpico.
Although Roma has defeated Chievo in three of their past six league encounters, the Giallorossi have only taken one point from the last two matches against Chievo....Como si dice, ‘playing down to your opponents?'
This one might be tough to remember, primarily because you couldn't even see the pitch. Both squads fought an enveloping fog throughout the second half, which, in addition to making it impossible to watch it via quasi-legal internet broadcasting, resulted in some dull, slow and sloppy play.
The match, in which Roma held an astounding 62% possession, was put to bed in the 87th minute by Sergio Pellissier, who received a well-played long ball and managed to stay onside and put it past...I don't know...somebody, it sure doesn't look like anyone was standing in goal.
Tuesday's are usually reserved for European matches, so you'll have to make do with this match against 13th place Chievo, winners of only one in their past six. I feel like I've said this many times in these previews, but Chievo are really as mediocre as a club can get. The only area in which they standout, in this case negatively, is their shots per game (9.8), ‘worsted' only by Siena's 9.2 shots per game. Their possession is lower than 50%, while their passing is below 80%, both figures are roughly the dividing line between the haves and have nots of Serie A, so I guess you could say that Chievo is on the lower end of the mediocrity spectrum. They are pretty effective on the counter attack, however, as their five goals of this variety is good for a four way tie for fourth in the league, Roma is among that crowd as well.
But, as we're all well aware of at this point, Roma tends to be, shall we say, too hospitable to the ragamuffins of Serie A, gifting both goals and points. Chievo has managed to stay in the top flight since 2008, so, while their overall numbers don't astound you, they certainly know how to stick around, both in the span of a match and an entire season.
You would think that if Donkeys could actually fly, they'd all be dangerous, but as far as the ones dressed in yellow and blue, there are but a few...
Over the past six weeks, Chievo has been bad, real bad. They've only scored two goals in their past six matches--that kind of bad. Things have gotten so dire for the Donkeys that last week against Cagliari they ran out the always unusual 5-3-2, managing a nil-nil draw.
Individually, you'd have to point at goalkeeper Christian Puggioni as a recent bright spot. Despite their horrendous form lately, winning one of six and scoring only two goals, they have kept three clean sheets over their past six and held Milan to a single goal several weeks ago. Since being inserted in the starting lineup in January, Puggioni has managed six shutouts in 15 matches, averaging 2.5 saves per match. So, as is often the case when Roma plays down to her opponents, a stellar, seemingly improbable, performance from the opposing keeper is usually a contributing factor to that ignominy. Puggioni, in form and function, appears to fit that bill.
Apart from the man between the sticks, Chievo has really been paced by the quintet of Boukary Dramé, Cyril Théréau, Dario Danielli, Marco Andreolli and Luca Rigoni. The defenders among that group (Bourkay, Andreaolli, Danielli) have been solid enough, in terms of tackling and interceptions per match, to keep Chievo to a respectable goals allowed total (11th in the league). While Théréau, along with Alberto Paloschi, leads the club with seven goals.
Théréau is really the name of note here. Beyond his goal totals, the Frenchman leads the club in assists, shots per game, key passes per game, dribbles per game and crosses per game. Théréau has done this while playing four different positions, including a few stints as an attacking midfielder, though he is nominally a center forward. He has two goals and two assists in his past eight matches, so you'll want to keep an eye on #77-he's Chievo's Totti, for all intents and purposes.
As far as our boys go, the song remains the same. With three matches remaining and the narrowest of leads over sixth place Udinese, the Europa League is far from guaranteed, making this match as critical as any. The problem with that is, of course, Roma's penchant for playing down to her opponent becomes more glaring and problematic. For most of us, Tuesday is a rather non-descript day, you go through the motions and do what you gotta do to keep the work week moving. For Roma, it's a different story altogether. Complacency isn't a tool to survive mid-week drudgery; it's a killer of European aspirations. Any sight of this ugly character trait could see Roma drop points (yet again) to an inferior team, thereby pinning their European hopes on tough matches against Milan, Napoli and the Europa League fail safe/Coppa Final against Lazio. Taking three points from Chievo, with an assist from Palermo against Udinese, could make those three tough tests a bit easier to navigate.
With such a quick turnaround from Saturday's match, speculating on what Andreazzoli will do is a bit tough. However, there are some interesting trends at play here. AA once again has a nearly full roster at his disposal, with Maarten Stekelenburg being the only absentee of any repute, though his replacement, Bogdan Lobont, is dealing with a fractured nose.
Although Andreazzoli opted for the 4-2-3-1 against Fiorentina, fronted by Pablo Osvaldo, he made mention in a recent press conference that he believes Osvaldo and Mattia Destro can indeed coexist on the pitch, so I suppose, at least in his eyes, that remains a possibility. For the sentimental Osvaldo-ites among us, should he grace the pitch tomorrow, it would be PDOs 100th Serie A appearance-I can't even imagine what sort of t-shirt graffiti celebration that would elicit, should he score.
For Andreazzoli, there is also a bit of (albeit minor) history on the line Tuesday. Roma's interim man has taken 24 points from his first 12 matches at the helm, should he take the full three points tomorrow, Andreazzoli's 27 points would be a club record for a manager's first 13 matches. While this is, at best, interesting trivia, it certainly adds to his case for further employment.
That's really the long and short of it, folks. By now we're all intimately familiar with the narrative this season: dropped points, keeper issues, Bradley and DDR can't play together, coaching changes, attempting to spell Panagiotis Tachtsidis without Rosetta Stone, Osvaldo's too flighty, Balzaretti too slow, and Taddei too sexy...and with three weeks remaining, there is precious little I can add.
I don't follow many other clubs, so I can't say if Roma's problems are unique, but they sure do seem to repeat year-after-year, don't they? We had all hoped that new owners would bring some stability, but the more things change, the more they stay the same.
However, if we want to see more Roma on Tuesdays, one thing must change; Roma must defeat inferior opponents.
So there's no way around it, Roma must conquer Chievo.