Sometimes five can be a good number: high fives, five fruits and vegetables a day, five star restaurants, $5 foot longs, but dropping five points to two of the league's worst teams doesn't doesn't count among them.
This is the precise position in which Roma find themselves, as last week's draw with Pescara, coupled with the loss to Palermo several weeks ago, saw the Giallorossi drop five precious points to two of Serie A's light weights, casting further doubt upon their European goals. But as we've discussed many a time here, Roma tends to play to the level of her opponent, for better or worse. With 17th place Siena in a relegation fight and with Roma suffering many late week maladies, the Giallorossi cannot oblige the Robur by playing like a 17th place club themselves.
But first, a trip back in time.
The story of this match was Mattia Destro's return to Siena, and the Destro(yer) did not disappoint (that's the best nom de plume we have for Mattia at the moment, suggestions are welcomed), bagging two goals against his former club.
Roma, winners of two straight and in the midst of a patented late year run, made the short trip northwards and emerged victorious, toppling Siena 3-1. But, as always, it wasn't easy.
Neto got things started for Siena in the 25th minute, heading home an outswinging corner from the edge of the six, giving Siena the early lead. This was the beginning and the end of Siena's offense,however. As has often been the case this season, Roma wouldn't make their mark till the second half.
On this particular evening, Destro did the damage, heading home Roma's first goal in the 63rd minute, following a lovely bit of skill from Alessandro Florenzi. Approximately 20 minutes later, Simone Perrotta scored the eventual game winner, slotting one past Gianluca Pegolo, capitalizing on an errant interception/rebound off a Siena defender.
Mattia Destro would put the nail in the coffin a mere five minutes later, taking the feed from Miralem Pjanic and beating Pegolo on the far post....corner flag grinding ensued and Roma left Siena with three points.
Also, is it just me or does Richard Whittle have the strangest English accent?
At some point in your life, you were probably cautioned that cheaters never prosper, unless, of course, you were an employee of A.C. Siena. So that they're even in a relegation battle can be attributed to their ignorance of this adage. The six points they lost due to their involvement in calcioscommesse might ultimately banish them to Serie B, as they hold the slimmest of leads (1 point) over 18th place Palermo. I suppose it would be poetic justice if they're done in by that docking of points, but needless to say, they'll have ample motivation.
In the preview of the first match, we stressed that Siena's spot on the table belied their true defensive capabilities. This is still true to an extent, as their goals conceded are roughly middle of the pack. Their offense...well, that's a different story. The Siena attack has been downright deplorable: their passing percentage is fourth worst, while they rank dead last in possession, shots per game, shots on target per game and dribbles per game. Their buildup play has also been an issue, as they've managed only 216 chances created, 180 less than Roma. So... yeah, they can neither possess, move, or shoot the ball, making their meager goal total all the more understandable. With 34 goals, Siena clocks in at 16th in the league and their club leader, Innocent Emeghara, has but seven; they've also been blanked in three of their last five matches.
So what this amounts to is a decent defensive team being torn asunder by their anemic offense, all within the thick of a relegation battle...those six points would sure be useful now, eh?
For Roma, this match represents the last (supposed) reprieve of the season, as May's fixture list features four of the league's top seven teams. A matter made worse with the sudden rash of late week injuries. Word came down late Friday afternoon that Pablo Osvaldo, Alessandro Florenzi and Panagiotis Tachtsidis all suffered various ailments in training, so add them to the injured/questionable list that already included Marquinhos and Dodo, not to mention the suspended Mattia Destro.
So the resulting Roma squad could be quite interesting. We've already seen Andreazzoli shift from his presumably preferred 3-5-2 to variants of the 4-3-3, but given the possible exclusions this week, a throw back to the halcyon days of the 4-2-3-1 might not be beyond the realm of possibility.
At the back of that formation, we will most assuredly see the quartet of Federico Balzaretti, Nicolas Burdisso, Leandro Castan and Ivan Piris. Supporting them would probably be Daniele De Rossi and Michael Bradley, Roma's fraternal footballing tandem, although I don't know if they can feel each other's pain like those G.I. Joe twins or finish each other's sandwiches (three hilarious shows in that clip, btw). Nevertheless, this combination is always one to monitor, as the proximity of one usually impacts the performance of the other.
The availability of PDO or Florenzi should have its greatest influence on the forward third of the formation (duh), primarily because it dictates where Totti is deployed. Without those two, there is the distinct possibility Francesco sits alone up top, supported by Erik Lamela, Simone Perrotta and Miralem Pjanic. If PDO is indeed fit, the options increase, as Andreazzoli could stick with the 4-2-3-1, swapping in Totti for Perrotta, or opt for a 4-3-3, with Pablo flanked by Francesco and Coco. Whatever the case may be, AA seems to have abandoned the three man backline, which hasn't been deployed since the Palermo debacle.
Speaking of Palermo, they're Inter Milan's opponent this week, so in order to close that one point gap, we better hope Inter treats them as benevolently as Roma did. Elsewhere, Lazio and Udinese, both trailing Roma by one point, face solid Parma and Cagliari squads, respectively.
With the season coming to a close and visions of Stevan Jovetic and Walter Mazzarri dancing through our heads, it's hard not to look ahead to next year, but you'd be doing yourself a disservice if you did. Win, lose, or draw, the next five weeks promise to be exciting.