Yesterday we poured over James Pallotta's claim that Roma and Juventus are indeed on the same level, and while some of us may have quibbled with his assertion, it is perhaps because of that verisimilitude that Pallotta doesn't feel the need to avenge Roma's gut wrenching loss at the Juventus Stadium back in October. However, despite his claims to the contrary, the cold hard light of reality shows that The Old Lady has been the superior side this season.
For example, take each club's respective goal differential; not the most statistically sound dividing line between good and great, but it's easy enough to understand. Juventus sports the league's most prolific offense and its stingiest defense, good for a +38 goal differential; exactly double the Giallorossi's mark, with a particular edge in goals forced, as Roma's 37 goals scored are only good for sixth in the league, one behind Palermo. Juve are a complete team from front-to-back, on that point, there is very little debate.
And yet, coming off a Europa League victory in Rotterdam, Roma are imbued with fresh optimism, but will that be enough to give them the emotional edge they'll need to topple a side seemingly headed for its fourth straight title?
Before we discuss the specifics of tomorrow's match, a look back at October's shambolics.
October 5, 2014: Juventus 3, Roma 2
We touched upon it briefly yesterday, but I don't think we effectively encapsulated the absurdity of this match. In 94 minutes of football, Roma and Juve amassed seven yellow cards, two red cards, 29 fouls and three penalty kicks...three penalty kicks...in the first half alone, the last of which came in 27 imaginary seconds, following a foul on Paul Pogba that may or may not have occurred in the box, check it:
That foul, as you may recall, came one minute and twenty seven seconds into stoppage time after the first 45 minutes; a first half which was only supposed to extend one additional minute. Only in Italy, folks. Only in Italy.
Shoddy calls aside, taking at least one point from Juve on the road would have been a monumental achievement, but then Roma were done in by this once in a life time goal from Leonardo Bonucci.
So that was it, Roma happened in the most egregious and gut wrenching way possible. Seriously, Bonucci could play another ten lifetimes and never pull that one off again.
Will Roma Wake Up?
We fell asleep for a month, but now we can beat Juventus and re-open the Scudetto race
Those are the sage words of Daniele De Rossi, who prescribes Roma's recent woes to a bout of footballing narcolepsy. Considering how lazy and uninspired they've played for all of 2015 that must have been one hell of a nap. Whether Danielino's diagnosis is accurate or not remains to be seen, but he is correct, or at the very least wildly optimistic, in his assertion that Roma can still re-open the Scudetto race.
A win tomorrow cuts the gap down to a much more manageable six points, a task made more feasible when we couple Roma's next "European" fixture against Fiorentina with Juve's increasing injury woes (Pogba Andrea Pirlo and Arturo Vidal, among others). With a comparatively lighter travel schedule and the Old Lady finally, possibly getting bit by the injury bug, maybe, just maybe, the fates are starting to conspire in Roma's favor.
But fate can only open doors, it's ultimately up to you to walk through them (I'll let you catch your breath, that was pretty profound), so the club still has some actual work to do to make this impossible reality true. Defeating Juventus in any form requires some shrewd tactical maneuvering and clinical efficiency, but what exactly must Roma do to come away with a result Monday, let alone a victory?
Well, since Juve is ostensibly the league's best club on both sides of the ball, they'll have to do a lot, but they can start with focusing on shot creation and conversion. Gianluigi Buffon is a legend in every respect, but he hasn't had a ton of work to do this season, as his defense concedes only 9.3 shots per match, the league's lowest figure. Of course, if you paid any attention to Roma's wretched run over the past month, you no doubt noticed that creating and capitalizing on genuine scoring chances was an area of grave concern for Garcia's outfit, so if recent history is any guide, Gigi might get another reprieve.
It's almost absurd to say, but scoring really is the key. If Garcia's offense can create and convert upon an early scoring chance, their chances of defeating Juventus for only the third time in the past ten league matches will increase dramatically. To wit, the Old Lady has lead in 49.1% of their match minutes this season, while remaining level for a further 49.5%. Do the math and you'll see that Juventus has trailed in matches for only a miniscule 1.4% of the time.All told, Juventus has only conceded first in four of their twenty four matches this season. Quite simply, Juventus seldom play from behind; in fact, when divided into the six standard 15-minute segments (minutes 1-15, 16-30 etc.), Juventus comes out on top in every single one.
The only other club to match that mark? Roma.
In fact, as Pallotta alluded to, Roma isn't terribly off Juve's mark. The Giallorossi have conceded the second fewest goals this season behind only Juve, and have defeated opponents almost as badly as the Old Lady has; Roma's five victories by two-goal margins is second only to Juve, while their two victories by three-goal margins is second only to Juventus...you're getting the picture. On the balance of the season, Roma hasn't been that wide of the mark, but their deplorable form in 2015 has cast serious doubt over their ability to stand even a puncher's chance of halting Juve's march towards four straight titles.
Now, exactly who will confront Carlos Tevez, Paul Pogba, Claudio Marchisio and Giorgio Chiellini remains to be seen, but odds are it will have a very Feyenoordian feel to it; after all, it's not as if Rudi Garcia has been acing his exams recently, so recent history will probably hold sway. Due to his two-assist performance in the Europa League midweek, look for Vasilis Torosidis to get the start at right back, joined in defense by his countrymen Jose Cholebas and Kostas Manolas, with a healthy dose of Mapou Yanga-Mbiwa thrown in for good measure.
Harkening back to our keys to this match, shot creation and conversion, the key to unlocking Juve's defense and threatening Gigi rests with the midfield. Granted, the level of opponent is a considerable factor, but Daniele De Rossi and Miralem Pjanic were instrumental in Roma's victory midweek, with each man playing a vital role in Garcia's machine establishing and maintaining momentum. DDR was particularly sharp, hitting on 10 of 13 longballs and creating two scoring chances.
He's not quite back to the level where they need him to be, but who better to vanquish Juventus, who better to lead the charge and who better to wake Roma up than a rejuvenated and refocused Daniele De Rossi?
When you want revenge, look to the madman in the beard.