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Roma v Atalanta Match Preview

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Roma travels to the foot of the Alps to take on a struggling Atalanta side. Will the Goddesses roll over for Roma, or will another league lightweight flummox Rudi Garcia and crew?

Philipp Guelland/Getty Images

For most of my tenure here at CdT, the talk leading up to the annual encounters between Roma and Atalanta centered around German Denis' quixotic scoring record against the Giallorossi. At one point in time, the Argentine forward scored four goals in a two match span, with 25% of his goals in 2011-2012 coming against Roma alone. While Denis has halted his one man assault against Roma in recent years, he certainly hasn't slowed down in the goal scoring department, bagging 28 league goals over the past two seasons combined.

However, in a testament to how poor Atalanta has been through eleven weeks, Denis' lone league goal accounts for a quarter of all The Goddesses goals this season. But, say it a million times and you still haven't said it enough, you simply cannot underestimate any opponent, no matter how pusillanimous they may appear, especially not when Roma is involved in the equation.

Roma v.AtalantaNovember 22 18:00 CET, 12:00 EST Stadio Atleti Azzurri d'Italia Bergamo, Italia

So, what can we expect tomorrow when Roma heads north to the steps of the Alps to take on Atalanta?

Anything But Immortal

For a team that carries an otherworldly nickname, Atalanta has been every bit the earth bound misfit this season. We mentioned the paltry four goals in eleven matches, but The Goddesses offense has been bad all over. Of course, with an average of only 11.6 shots per match and a league worst 2.1 shots on target per match, that dismal goal total isn't terribly surprising. However, beyond an inability to find the back of the net, Atalanta simply hasn't been able to keep the ball, or really do anything of note when they do maintain possession. At only 46%, Atalanta ranks 15th in Serie A in possession, while only Cesena creates scoring chances at a lower clip. Atalanta isn't the Goddess of attacking football, that's for sure.

Despite their horrid offense and 16th spot on the table, Atalanta's 11 goals allowed ranks fifth in the league. Of course, part of that record is attributable to their relatively light schedule thus far, though they did keep a prolific Napoli offense to just one goal, and have kept four clean sheets, so whether it's a product of timing or talent, Atalanta's defense has been bent and twisted out of shape but has yet to completely break.

Closing Out The Calendar Year

Believe it or not, we're little more than six weeks away from 2015, and wouldn't you know it, the remainder of 2014 is no cakewalk for our dear Giallorossi. Following tomorrow's trip to Bergamo, Roma face the always lovely prospect of Moscow in late November, which is fortunately buttressed by three straight home matches against Inter Milan, Sassuolo and Manchester City, before they close out 2014 against Genoa and Milan. Home or away, foreign or domestic, that's a tough six weeks.

Roma were able to dust off their 2-0 loss to Napoli by making quick work of Torino two weeks ago, making tomorrow's tilt an ideal transition into December's far tougher fixture list.

But, and stop me if you think you've heard this one before, Roma's supposed walk over tomorrow has been waylaid by injuries and fatigue. Setting aside the troubling news of Leandro Castan's impending brain surgery, Roma are once again without Maicon on the flanks, a problem that continues to compound as we watch Vasilis Torosidis, Jose Cholebas and Ashley Cole look outwitted and overmatched by opposing attackers.

Look for two thirds of those names to be supported centrally by Kostas Manolas and...and...well, somebody; we're just not sure who yet. With Mapou Yanga Mbiwa the latest casualty of the international break and with Davide Astori's own injury woes, we simply don't know who will line up next to Manolas; could be Torosidis, could be De Rossi, either way, it's not ideal.

As far as the rest of the XI is concerned, word broke earlier this week that Rudi Garcia might try an as yet unseen trio of Adem Ljajic, Mattia Destro and Juan Iturbe, though that is far from confirmed. Of course, with a must-win match against Moscow looming on Tuesday, we can rest assured that any and all personnel decisions will be made with that fixture in mind. However, letting Nutella, Mr. Right and Manu run wild in Bergamo, should they gel, gives Garcia's offense another interesting wrinkle.

Whatever eleven Garcia deems necessary tomorrow, Atalanta's strangely solid defensive record will require a maximum effort from Roma to unlock. Coming off the always tortuous international break, this match could (and hopefully should) serve as a springboard into what is undoubtedly Roma's toughest stretch of the season thus far.