Roma's resounding 5-1 victory over Serie A newcomers Carpi back in September stands as perhaps the lasting image of all that was good about Rudi Garcia's football. Roma played fast and loose, they were aggressive and creative, and for one evening it looked as if Garcia had finally lifted the veil that fell over his club in 2015. It was the first of five successive victories, four of which included three or more goals. Happy days were here again.
There's no need to rehash what happened after that, you were there, but here we are five months later and Roma are in the midst of another winning streak and all that stands between Luciano Spalletti and four straight victories is 19th place Carpi, who welcome the Giallorossi to the Stadio Alberto Braglia for the first time since Modena FC was in the top flight.
Fun fact: Sting, U2, Prince, Pink Floyd, Guns N' Roses and Rage Against the Machine have all played shows in the Alberto Braglia, but not at the same time, because they would've been amazing.
Before we delve into this one, let's turn the clock back to September
September 26, 2015: Roma 5, Carpi 1
This was a special match, and not just because it was the first ever encounter between the two clubs. No, my friends, this was a celebratory occasion because the sexiest man in the history of Rome, Marco Borriello, made his triumphant return to the Stadio Olimpico. And Mr. 25,000 didn't disappoint, nearly shaking Seydou Keita out of his boots (starting at the 43 second mark) and scoring Carpi's lone goal. Alas, Borriello wasn't enough to forestall the inevitable, Roma rightfully made the day theirs, running the Biancorossi off the pitch, but it was good to see him again. After all these years and all these clubs, he's still finding a way to get it done.
Four Star Spalletti
After a disappointing two-match debut against Hellas Verona and Juventus, Spalletti-lover's spirits were nearly crushed. What happened to the magic? To the beauty? To the joy? Were we really condemned to another year of disappointments? Was this our lot in life?
Fortunately for us, our patience appears to be paying off, as week by week, this Roma is starting to resemble that Roma, the one that made you believe anything was possible. Hyperbole aside, and even taking into account the quality of the last three opponents, Roma is starting to look more settled into Spalletti's tactics. A great sign for Roma and harbinger of danger for her opponents.
Spalletti has shifted and tinkered out of necessity, but Miralem Pjanic, Radja Nainggolan and Antonio Rüdiger, among others, have started to look more comfortable in their new roles, and that familiarity, in turn, has transformed Roma into something we haven't seen since these teams last met: an unpredictable and unassailable footballing machine.
With nearly a full squad at his disposal, and with Real Madrid looming on the horizon, look for Spalletti to roll out his A-team, using this match (while not overlooking it) as an opportunity to further solidify his tactics and expectations ahead of that crucial encounter.
It's an odd thing. I find myself so beleaguered by the Garcia days that I'm afraid to be confident ahead of a match like this, but win, lose or draw, the Post-Garcia Roma is a completely different animal.
But the Roma psychosis is a difficult thing to exorcise, isn't it?