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Roma v. Empoli Match Preview

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It's been a dramatic week around Trigoria, so you can rest assured Roma is raring to get back on the pitch. With lowly Empoli coming to town, can a depleted Roma side gut out a much needed victory?

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Given the flurry of events over the past day or so, and because, well, because it's Empoli, this will be an extremely brief look at what is undoubtedly an important match. This would normally be the time that I'd say something like "Hey, at least we can finally turn our attention back to the pitch" but I'm not certain that's the better alternative in this instance.

For my part, I'd rather talk about Destro, Doumbia and Donald Duck than think about what a funk Roma has been in the past few months. Adem Ljajic's point saving goal last week, while a welcome occurrence given the circumstances, delivered Roma's third straight draw, and their fifth in their past seven league matches.

And if the draws in and of themselves weren't bad enough, the manner in which Roma has limped to the finish line is sure to drive even the most sane among us batty. Looking uninspired and, quite frankly, directionless, Roma has scored one goal or less in three of those five draws.

Roma v.EmpoliJanuary 31 20:45 CET, 14:45 EST Stadio Olimpico Roma, Italia

So, how does Rudi Garcia fix this? How will he keep Roma on Juve's heels?

Whatever the answer may be, it probably won't be found tomorrow, for no other reason than Garcia's squad is considerably short-manned. Let's take a look.

Who's In, Who's Out

While Leandro Castan boldly claimed he would play again during the 2014-2015 season, recovery from brain surgery isn't exactly something one trifles with. On the lighter side of the injury spectrum, Daniele De Rossi and Kevin Strootman are both sidelined with lower extremity injuries, a calf for The Lumberjack and the now twice repaired knee for The Dutch Jesuus, Vasilis Torosidis is also out, but does anyone even notice that anymore?

But it's not all bad news; Seydou Keita is back from his AFCON duties with Mali and has been included in the squad list. While he probably won't start, his return is certainly a welcome one. As far as the rest of the midfield is concerned, look for Miralem Pjanic and Radja Nainggolan to be joined by Leando Paredes, you know, the one prospect Rudi Garcia actually plays.

Through is first 113 minutes in a Roma shirt, Paredes has looked, well, not tremendous, but not overwhelmed, which is exactly what you'd hope for from a 20-year-old rookie. Paredes has completed nearly 92% of his passes and has averaged nearly two tackles per match, sitting firmly in the middle third of the pitch.

While its far, far too early to make any judgments about young Paredes, the mere fact that he's playing is encouraging. After all, we can't say the same about Salih Uçan, Tonny Sanabria, Michele Somma, Lukasz Skorupski, Valmir Berisha...should I keep going?

There is, however, one intriguing addition to this week's squad list, Tomáš Vestenický, Roma's 18-year-old Slovakian wunderkind. You know him, he's the Slovakian...umm, Dimitar Berbatov? No. Thierry Henry? Probably not. Marek Hamsik? Oh, wait, he is Slovakian. Anyway, you'll probably hear a lot about him then hear nothing about him before he leads Novara back to Serie A in 2023.

Kickoff is less than 24 hours away, and while Roma shouldn't have too much trouble with Empoli, its nearly table watching season, so keep an eye on the Old Lady as she travels to Udine and Napoli as they take on Chievo. Remember, the gap between second and third is less than first and second; draws will now bite Roma in the ass in both directions.