Rudi Garcia may be out of a job, Eusebio Di Francesco may take over in June, Mehdi Benatia may be taking a voluntary 25% paycut to come back to Roma. Gervinho's hurt, Mohamed Salah is hurt, Francesco Totti is hurt and Roma is fresh off a 6-1 shellacking from arguably the best team in the world. As always, life in the Eternal City is tumultuous. Amid all this chaos, Roma must somehow, someway defeat 10th place Atalanta at the Olimpico tomorrow.
Given all the controversy and uncertainity, a simple victory probably won't suffice. Roma needs to thoroughly dominate Atalanta tomorrow, both in order to close the gap on first place Inter Milan and, more importantly, to boost morale around Trigoria.
So, just how can they achieve this? Let's take a quick look.
Downing La Dea
Atalanta B.C. is known as La Dea or The Goddesses , a unique moniker for sure, but for much of their Serie A history they have been decidedly mortal, existing in that strata where simply surviving the top flight is job number one. Though, it must be said, they've done a damn fine job of that the past several seasons.
After winning the Serie B title in 2010-2011, Atalanta has remained with the big boys and has actually been a bit of a bother for the boys in yellow in red since then, defeating Roma once thanks to a German Denis hattrick and drawing them twice more over the past four seasons. Not a dominant stretch by any imagination, but enough of a hurdle to trip a Roma side desperately seeking a win tomorrow.
While Atalanta is no threat to the top of the table, currently sitting in 10th place, they are on pace to improve over last season when they barely avoided the drop. Despite that relative improvement, the Goddesses have been plagued by a dormant offense, one that struggles mightily on the road. During their first seven matches away from Bergamo, Atalanta has managed to score only three goals while allowing eleven.
Statistically speaking, Atalanta is your run of the mill average team (if that makes any sense). In essence, the stats haven't been deplorable, but they don't really excel in any one area, so tenth place is probably their best case scenario at this point.
Rescuing Rudi: Stage One
If indeed Rudi Garcia is on a four match audition to save his job, tomorrow figures to be the lightest test; a middling, punchless team coming to the Olimpico should be an easy first step for Garcia. That is, until, you remember their penchant for playing down to their opponents, making tomorrow the mother of all trap games.
Due to the extreme nature of their past two matches--the rain against Bologna and the severe beatdown against Barcelona--we can't really draw too many tactical conclusions from Roma's recent run, aside from the longstanding defensive concerns and lack of direct attacking play.
Fortunately for Roma, Mauricio Pinilla and Alejandro Gomez, Atalanta's leading scorers, have as many goals this season (six) as Roma's last opponent managed in one match. Unfortunately for Roma, they're still Roma; the same club that has conceded 12 goals over their past six matches. Granted, half of those came against Barcelona on Tuesday, but defensive cohesion and rigidity haven't exactly been Roma's calling card this season and Pinilla is just wily enough to ruin Roma's Sunday.
Offensively speaking, with the continued absence of Totti and Gervinho, odds are we'll see Edin Dzeko flanked by Juan Iturbe and Iago Falque, though much of that depends on where Garcia opts to roll out Florenzi; fullback or forward. However, if Dzeko can maintain his hot form, who starts alongside him may be irrelevant. Over his past six matches (all comps for club and country), Dzeko has scored five goals, including two last week. Dzeko may be an infuriating player (missing PKs and sitters yet heading the ball home in traffic), but in the absence of Salah and Gervinho, he's Roma's best bet to score and he's absolutely critical to any hope Garcia has of hanging onto his job
Behind the ball the only the question that matters is what's going on in between the collective ears of Kostas Manolas and Antonio Rüdiger, the latter of whom apologized for Roma's putrid performance against Barcelona. Defeats like that can go either way: you either obsess over every moment and wonder what went wrong, or you just say fuck it and move on.
Roma will once again win the battle on paper, as they outshine Atalanta in virtually every position, but given everything that has happened or is happening off the pitch, can they buckle down and get the job done tomorrow or will they slide further into irrelevance?