Roma and Chievo, a matchup all of 13 years old, doesn't exactly have a long and lustrous history holding it up, but it always triggers my memory because it was the first match preview I ever wrote for CdT two years ago. Back then, Chris would make us submit articles in triplicate...hand written...in cursive. He even used to make us skip a line on the paper so he could belittle our grammar elementary school style. In the ensuing two years, Roma and Chievo have each taken six points, with the Giallorossi taking the most recent honors, grounding the Flying Donkeys 2-0 back in March, their second straight victory over Chievo.
However, coming off an international break, one in which, yes, you guessed it, another key player got hurt, tomorrow's tilt is far from a sure thing.
Down Go the Donkeys
Chievo's usual best case scenario means they're mired in the middle of the table; not showing off, not falling behind, but right in that meaty party of the curve. Through six matches, the Flying Donkeys sport a -4 goal differential and have taken only four points in six weeks. Eugenio Corini's side ranks dead last in possession and passing percentage, while their 9.5 shots per match are only spared the ignominy of being dead last thanks to Cesena's pitiful seven shots per contest. Making matters worse, over 50% of their shots come from beyond the area. So in sum, they can't hold it, they can't pass it, and even when they fall bass ackwards into a shot, it's usually from a harmless area of the pitch.
Despite their historic mediocrity, Chievo has always had a few intriguing players, ranging from Davide Moscardelli and Andrea Barzagli, to Michael Bradley (yes, he was quite good for them), Jonathan Biabiany and Cyril Théréau, the man I once touted as an ideal Roman reserve (to my credit, he has two goals in five appearances for Udinese). But, outside of perhaps Alberto Paloschi, Francesco Bardi and Nicola Bellomo, these Donkeys, though they are reputed to possess the power of flight, aren't that interesting.
How Many Ways Can We Say This?
Injuries. Roma has lots of them, important ones at that. In addition to the ongoing concerns over Daniele De Rossi, Morgan De Sanctis, Davide Astori and Kevin Strootman, Roma can once again add Juan Iturbe to that list, not to mention Seydou Keita, who was injured while playing for Mali in AFCON qualifications during the break.
Manu, who made a swift recovery from a muscular injury he suffered against Manchester City to start against Juventus two weeks ago, is currently suffering some lingering issues and figures to be rested ahead of Tuesday's matchup with Bayern Munich. Given that Roma has a shot to vault the Germans into first place in Group E, this is probably the smart move.
Whether or not Rudi Garcia tests De Rossi and Astori tomorrow, both of whom are inching towards a return, is a different matter. Roma have managed well enough without those two Italian internationals, and surely they can weather the storm against lowly Chievo tomorrow, but if they stand any chance against Bayern, they'll need all hands rested and on deck next Tuesday, so leaving these two in the stands for one more week might not be the worst idea.
That's really the long and short of it. Even undermanned, Roma has more than enough talent to walk away with an easy three, but with Bayern Munich on the horizon, a recipe for distraction could be in the cards.