Winless in their past five matches, Roma travels south to take on bitter rivals Napoli. Back in August, this seemed like a dream matchup: Francesco Totti, Gonzalo Higuain, Edin Dzeko, Dries Mertens, Mohamed Salah, Jose Callejon, Daniele De Rossi, Lorenzo Insigne, Miralem Pjanic and Marek Hamsik—a murderer's row of Serie A talent set to face off in what was sure to be a top of the table clash.
Well, part of that equation still remains true. Despite their travails this season, Roma sits in fourth place, five points off the title pace and three back of third place Napoli; so there's still a lot at stake Sunday, but these are two clubs headed in opposite directions.
We mentioned Roma's struggles—winless since November's derby victory over Lazio—but it's been the nature of those losses that should turn your stomach. Since that 2-0 victory over their city rivals, Roma has managed only four goals in five matches and has been about as inspiring as the McGovern campaign.
Napoli, meanwhile, have been the polar opposite. Despite falling to Bologna in their last league match (only their second loss of the season), Napoli has won 15 of their last 19 matches in all competitions since the start of September and have scored 13 goals in their last six matches (all comps).
So if you're looking for the absolute worst opponent for Roma to face at this point in time, look no further. And if you're looking for one man to single handedly destroy Roma, look no further than Gonzalo Higuain, who has 10 goals in as many matches. All told, Higuain has 16 goals in 18 appearances this season.
Beyond the gross totals, the efficiency and manner in which Higuain has managed these goals has been astounding. Higuain is averaging an astounding 5.2 shots per match in league play, putting 53% of those on target and converting 23% into goals. And while he's largely been an in-the-box scorer, he's done so with a remarkable level of ambidexterity, scoring six with his left foot and eight with his right.
With 14 of Napoli's 18 goals to his credit, an argument can be made that they've been too reliant on Higuain, but as we just saw, he's as efficient as he is prolific. And if that wasn't enough, Higuain is averaging 1.5 key passes per match, tied for fourth on the club. Higuain is criminally underappreciated and is probably salivating thinking about facing Roma's perpetually disjointed defense.
We'll leave this one at that; there isn't much left to say about Roma's current form. It appears as though Roma's passage to the knockout stages of the Champions League has given Rudi Garcia an undeserved stay of execution, but if they fail to show up Sunday in the Derby del Sole, things could get really ugly really fast.