In an attempt to provide some reassurance, we started off the last preview stating that Roma had defeated Udinese in four of their last six encounters. You all presumably now what happened next, Roma squandering a 2-0 lead, so I'll spare you the gory details.
The obvious benefit of this midweek encounter against Parma is that it allows us all to move on, but here's the twist of irony; Roma have also defeated Parma in four of the last six fixtures. Digging a little deeper, we see a couple more favorable trends. Overall, Roma have won 19 of their last 24 against Parma (in all competitions), including seven clean sheets in the nine most recent matches. So stop me if you've heard this one before, but recent history favors the Giallorossi.
However, Roma sits only two points ahead of Parma this season (14 to 12), after the two sides were even on 56 points last season. These are the depths to which Roma has sunk the past 18 months.
In another bit of irony, Parma enter this game, much like Roma on Sunday, looking to string together a three match winning streak, having defeated Sampdoria and Torino in their prior two matches. Despite that modest streak, Parma's record is straight threes: three wins, three draws, and three losses, good for 12 points.
Their place on the table is also somewhat indicative of the stratification of Serie A. Parma sit at 7th place with a -1 goal differential and .500 winning percentage (excluding draws). Roma, on the other hand, sit at 6th place with a +4 goal differential and are 1 game over the .500 mark (excluding draws), making Roma the last team over .500 and with a positive goal differential.
What that essentially means is that Roma are on the brink of mediocrity; above them are the heavyweights, below them the bottom feeders, but there is hope, of sorts. Roma simultaneously share the league lead in goals with Juventus (20) and goals allowed with Chievo (16)-Roma dines with both the Gods and Clods of Serie A. It is this bipolarity that leaves a team as talented as Roma in 6th place a quarter of the way through the season (more on that later this week).
So let's take a look at Parma.
As I mentioned, they're a mere two points behind Roma and have displayed their own matter of inconsistencies, losing two of their first three matches and then summarily drawing the next three, both scoring and conceding late goals. If nothing else, Parma, much like Roma, is testament to how a season can swing on a few moments of grace or ineptitude.
Unlike Roma, however, Parma does not do any one thing particularly well, save for fouls, in which they lead the league. They're a middle of the pack team in terms of shots/shots-on-target per game and have only managed 5 goals from the run of play, though their 3 goals from set pieces is good for 4th in the league.
But beyond that, there isn't one particular player who strikes fear in your heart; by most metrics they don't even have a top 20 player. Although, to his credit our old friend, and subject of many a Roma transfer rumor in his time, Amauri, has notched 3 goals this term. Close behind him with two goals is the Roman born and bred Aleandro Rosi. Parma also features solid squad players like Alessandro Lucarelli, Daniele Galloppa, Cristian Zaccardo and an intriguing young French/Algerian forward Ishak Belfodil, who has a goal and assist in six appearances.
Parma is mediocre in every sense of the word, a word from which Roma must disassociate themselves. The problem is that Roma are a fantastic team for 50-60 minutes and dreadful for the remaining 30 minutes. It's that last half hour that has separated Roma from the ranks of the contenders.
With such a quick turnaround and several lingering injuries, don't expect too many changes from the XI that took the field on Sunday against Udinese. In a season full of inconsistency, there are a few factors upon which we can rely-Pablo Osvaldo, Erik Lamela and Francesco Totti will threaten early and often, so look for that line up front for the foreseeable future.
Despite the squandering of a 2-0 lead, the defense showed positive signs, young Brazilian signs, to be exact. The European debut of Dodo was as impressive as one could have hoped from a player so young and so injured. In his 63 minutes, we saw glimpses of the skills that elevated his You Tube videos to near legendary status (around here at least). Dodo looked quick, agile, and generally dangerous with the ball at his feet, capable of creating chances for himself and others. Coupled with the "I can't believe he's only 18" Marquinhos, the barely legal Corinthians boys should form a potent defensive pairing going forward.
With the return of Nicolas Burdisso and the continued absence of Federico Balzaretti and Rodrigo Taddei, the shape of the back four has yet to be determined; ditto for the midfield, as the Panagiotis Tachtsidis, Miralem Pjanic-Alessandro Florenzi quagmire rages on. The starting nod against Udinese went to the Bosnian, though the latter two were swapped in the 69th minute. The midfield melodrama, surely the story of the season thus far, rages on.
Adding further fuel to this fire, Zeman recently hit out pundits who have questioned his deployment of Daniele De Rossi, saying:
He's not been a regista for eight years...I have to make a decision, I'm amazed at all of you here because you all know that De Rossi has never been a playmaker, that role was filled by David Pizarro...De Rossi was used as a regista last season? He was also used as a central defender...Daniele has been playing to the side of the central midfielder for eight years and I don't see why there should be a problem this term.
Again, we'll touch upon this more later in the week, but DDRs performances (good and bad) have been instrumental to the success of the club, or lack thereof, thus far. Although, with Tachtsidis suspended for this match, we've been granted a bit of a reprieve from the drama as DDR, Pjanic and Florenzi should get the collective starting nod.
We're nine weeks in and seven points adrift of Champions League qualification, while third place isn't out of the question, each passing week and each blown lead increases the pressure on an already stressed team.
Parma (3-5-2): Mirante; Zaccardo, Paletta, Lucarelli; Biabiany, Marchionni, Valdes, Parolo, Gobbi; Belfodil, Amauri.
Roma (4-3-3): Stekelenburg; Piris, Marquinhos, Castan, Dodò; De Rossi, Bradley, Florenzi; Lamela, Osvaldo, Totti.