Riding high off their Edin Dzeko-fueled success, Roma are in the midst of a four match winning streak, one which has vaulted them back into second place, a mere two points behind that detestable Old Lady. With Juventus squaring off with Napoli on Saturday, Roma’s away fixture to 18th place Empoli on Sunday might provide them with yet another opportunity to close ground on the five-time defending champions.
Roma has utterly dominated Empoli in the 21st century, winning five of their past six encounters, including an aggregate 6-2 drubbing over last season. While Empoli’s success under Maurizio Sarri was cute and everything, those days are long gone. Empoli are mired...and I mean mired...in 18th place, having taken only six points from their first ten matches, putting them even with another pitiful side, Palermo.
Empoli v. Roma: October 30th, 15:00 CET/10:00 EDT. Stadio Castellani, Empoli.
As bleak as that might seem, Empoli looks even worse when you look at the finer points of the table. The Azzurri have scored a total of two...you read that right...two goals this term, while conceding 13. There aren’t many words in the English language, nor Italian I would imagine, that can describe the depth of that despair. Shit, Dzeko scored two goals in twenty minutes against Sassuolo the other day.
Needless to say, this Empoli side isn’t very imposing, and quite frankly, beyond Lukasz Skorupski’s Roman connection and Riccardo Saponara’s potential as a buy-low candidate during the transfer season, they’re not even really that interesting, except for their potential in keeping Pescara afloat (my ancestral hometown team), so we’ll move onto the Roma news of the day.
Given the chemistry they’ve developed, not to mention the rousing success with which they’ve played, chances are Spalletti will continue to roll out his latter day 4-2-3-1, in which Dzeko is supported by Mohamed Salah, Radja Nainggolan and Stephan El Shaarawy.
Granted, the quality of the opponents during this streak has to be considered, but the proof is in the pudding; this lineup has clicked. Really, beyond Nainggolan being slightly miscast as a number ten, this formation and lineup seems to put nearly everyone in a position to succeed, while also getting all of the squad’s best players on the pitch at once.
Of course, this newly meshed XI suffered a massive setback during the week, the loss of Alessandro Florenzi, Roma’s glue guy extraordinaire. While Ale’s initial prognosis seems remarkable (90 days for an ACL tear), he still leaves the club with a sizeable hole at right back, particularly with Bruno Peres’ ongoing problems. In his stead, Spalletti seemingly has no choice but to run with Emerson and Juan Jesus as his fullback pairing, which is, which is...almost too detestable for words.
Considering their near-term opponents (Empoli, Bologna, Atalanta and Pescara), Roma should be able to weather this storm, at least until Peres returns, but neither Emerson nor Rrruan are viable options at fullback in the long term. It’s as if Roma set off on a cross country trip and immediately blew out their back tires and are now driving on two spares, desperately hoping to find the next service station before the wheels completely fall off.
Despite Empoli’s less than impressive form, this is still Roma we’re talking about, and as we all know, anything can and will happen. If Dzeko and the rest of the frontline can bang home an early goal, you’ll have to like Roma’s chances, if not, this could be an unexpectedly tight match.