For two clubs who had never met prior to last season, Roma and Sassuolo produced a pair of pretty memorable fixtures last year. Well, I guess one memorable match; Roma's 2-0 victory last spring is only indelible because of Michel Bastos' garbage time goal in the 96th minute, but you no doubt recall how this fixture went down last season. Sassuolo effectively entombed and resurrected themselves, surrendering an own goal to give Roma the lead, while Domenico Berardi's last minute strike stole two points from Rome. Losing at the death like that always hurts, but Berardi is such a fantastic prospect, I doubt we'll be his last victim. (Yes, it was a draw, but last minute draws are essentially losses)
Through 13 weeks of play, Sassuolo looks the part of a Serie A mainstay, while Berardi's stock continues to rise, as, at only 20-years-old, he leads the club in goals and assists.
So will Roma roll over the Neroverdi or fall prey to Berardi's heroics again?
Sassuolo: Short & Sweet
You may have noticed that this preview is going up a bit later than our normal faire, beyond the real world creeping in, it's simply a matter of this; beyond Berardi and Simone Zaza, this club isn't that interesting. Sassuolo sits in tenth place, and based on most of your dime a dozen statistics, that's exactly where they belong. However, in the limited time we have, if we peer a micrometer beneath the surface, we can see that the Black-Greens are running in the read in terms of not only plus minus, but in shots for vs shots against, while more than 50% of their shots come from outside of the area.
Point being, while Sassuolo looks safe to survive another season, their margins are razor thin if not downright unsustainable.
From the Roma perspective, it's been a week of mixed blessings. Roma began the week still high off their victory over Inter, one in which they received stellar performances from Miralem Pjanic, Gervinho, Francesco Totti and even Jose Cholebas. And while it was nice to dispatch an opponent as loathsome as Inter, the two goals conceded were worrisome nonetheless, while Leandro Castan, though thankfully on the mend after cranial surgery, is more than likely out for the remainder of the season.
A mixed bag, yes, but the ship seems righted for the moment. Now is the time for our standard notation; Rudi Garcia's squad selection must be couched against Wednesday's concerns, Roma's titanic Champions League encounter with Manchester City. Given the importance of that match and the relative feebleness of Sassuolo, don't look for much of Totti or Gervinho, both of whom were so crucial in Roma's come from behind draw (that sounds weird to say) back in September.
If that is indeed how it shakes out, look for Adem Ljajic and Mattia Destro to do the heavy lifting tomorrow.
My apologies for keeping it brief, but I think we all know the story by now; regardless of the opponent, Roma must keep their foot on the gas and hope that they don't suffer any abnormal injuries.