Thanks to Empoli's own goal-fueled upset over Napoli, Roma has a little breathing room in their quest to at least remain in third place. Above them, the status quo remains firmly intact; Lazio's 4-0 defeat over Parma kept the second point gap at a reasonable-yet-depressing one point. Heading into the weekend, the task is much the same as when we last spoke: Roma has the decidedly tougher matchup, hosting sixth place Genoa while Lazio gets the luxury of traveling to Bergamo to take on 17th place Atalanta.
Of course, if Roma hadn't piddled their way through 2015, Lazio's fixture list would be immaterial, but that's just how we do things around here. Unlike last week's opponent Sassuolo, the Griffone would pose a credible threat to Roma under the best possible circumstances, let alone in the midst of an, shall we say, up and down period.
December 14, 2014: Roma 1, Genoa 0
In what has become a typical Roma-Genoa affair—three of their past six matches resulted in 1-0 scorelines—Maicon and Radja Nainggolan teamed up to give Roma the slimmest of victories. Of course it wasn't easy (Ljajic had a PK saved), but the Giallorossi dominated possession and were efficient enough to keep Genoa on their heels for most of the evening, despite the slim scoreline.
Led by Iago Falque, Alessandro Matri and our very own Andrea Bertolacci, Genoa's 49 goals forced are the league's fifth best mark, three more than Roma, while their 38 goals allowed falls seventh in the league, five places behind Roma; credit Roma with this much, they haven't exactly bled goals, the bright side of an unrelenting string of one-one draws, right?
If you read any of the usual calcio jaunts, you've undoubtedly read that, due his keeper assisted goal earlier in the week, Seydou Doumbia might supplant Francesco Totti in the starting lineup. To that, I offer a hearty Psshaw.
Given the economic impacts, we may have to resign ourselves to the fact that Rudi Garcia will, by hook or by crook, be forced to find a way to use Roma's new #88 in something resembling an effective manner, but would that include starting him over Mr. Roma himself?
I sincerely hope not. If relying on a man who's only claim to Roman fame was a flukish goal, god help us all.
But, for the remainder of Totti's career, the forward rotation will always be a source of contention; he's too old to play 90 minutes consistently (if at all), but far, far, far too talented to be relegated to a 70th minute or so sub, making personnel decisions an incredibly tense affair.
While Alessandro Florenzi's wondergoal reminded us all of what a gifted attacking talent he can be when properly unleashed, he is firmly entrenched as Roma's right back for the foreseeable future. Is this the best use of his talents? Probably not, but he simply needs to be on the pitch, full stop.
Of course, in true Roma fashion, he may be a late scratch this weekend, paving the way for the eyesore fullback combo of Jose Cholebas and Vasilis Torosidis. Joining Ale on the doubtful list is Radja Nainggolan who, like Florenzi, trained separately from the rest of the squad this week, while Adem Ljajic returned to full-team training, hopefully sparing us from a Victor Ibarbo, Gervinho and Doumbia front line.
This is it, with only five weeks remaining; the time for excuses is through. Can Garcia conjure up some last minute magic and recapture second place, or is Roma destined for a late August Champions League qualifier?
Time will soon tell, but don't count on the Grifone for any help in unwrapping that enigma.