After yet another interminable international break, Roma jumps back into Serie A action Saturday when they travel northwards to take on a 17th Bologna side that may or may not feature former Roma forward and CdT lovechild Mattia Destro. In case you had forgotten, Roma bounced back from their 1-0 defeat to Inter by dispatching Lazio 2-0 in the Derby della Capitale prior to the International break, but enter this match missing a few key components.
Roma pounded Bologna by a cumulative 6-0 in
last season's 2013-2014's fixtures, can they continue this domination over their northern neighbors, or has too much rust accumulated over the past two weeks?
Let's take a quick look.
The Bologna Has Gone Bad
After 12 weeks of play, Bologna is just barely clinging to life in Serie A, sitting just one point clear of the drop zone. Roberto Donadoni's first season in Emilia-Romagna has not gone well. The Rossoblu have taken only 12 points from those 12 matches, scoring 11 goals while conceding 15.
Despite that -4 goal differential, the real culprit behind this rotten bologna has been their decrepit offense. The addition of Mattia Destro was never meant to vault Bologna among the league's most dangerous attacking sides, but surely he could've helped make them respectable. Well, if you've been following Mr. Right this season, you know the story. While minutes haven't been hard to come by, the Destro well has gone dry. In 12 appearances, Destro has found the back of the net only once...once! While I may have overshined Destro more than anyone on the internet, that's still a pretty shocking figure.
Beyond Destro's down turn, Bologna's attack simply lacks that creative spark. Donadoni's side ranks dead last in chances created, which is shame (for them) because, collectively speaking, they're among the league's best shooting sides, as their 44% shot accuracy is tied for fifth in the league. However, dig just a bit deeper and you'll see that, despite their keen eye, they simply don't move the ball into advantageous positions, as their shots inside the area ranks, you guessed it, dead last.
It's a tale as old as time. Passing and shooting don't mean much if you can't create genuine scoring chances, and for Bologna, that's been their down fall.
Roma: Rested But Reeling
Despite the two week break, the list of Roma's walking wounded has barely changed. Mohamed Salah remains a definitive no thanks to his somewhat gruesome ankle injury prior to the break, while Francesco Totti and now Gervinho are listed as doubtful for this match. While we've grown (somewhat begrudgingly) used to seeing Totti on the sidelines, without Gervinho and Salah, Roma are down their two most potent attacking threats this season.
Without Gervinho and Salah, look for Iago Falque and Juan Iturbe to lineup on either side of Edin Dzeko. While we've come to expect a steadying hand from Falque, whose calm and incisive passing has been the perfect counter to Roma's hell on wheels approach, we simply have no idea what to expect from Iturbe—his playing time has simply been to sporadic to draw any conclusions in either direction.
Outside of Manu's return to the starting eleven, the remainder of Garcia's first team should remain largely the same—Miralem Pjanic, Daniele De Rossi and Radja Nainggolan in the midfield and Alessandro Florenzi, Kostas Manolas, Antonio Rüdiger and Lucas Digne in the defense with the anything but sure hands of Wojciech Szczesny backing them up.
Given the gulf in attacking talent, even without Salah and Gervinho, you have to like this squad's chances of walking away from Emilia-Romagna with a big win.