While Roma's two-nil loss to Real Madrid during the week wasn't a moral victory on level with their 1-1 draw against Barcelona, for the most part, we came away satisfied with the club's spirit and effort; it was yet another sign the club is heading in the right direction. However, with a dog fight for the top three in Serie A, there's no time to dwell on Ronaldo and friends.
Luciano Spalletti and company jump back into the domestic fray tomorrow when they welcome 15th place Palermo to the Olimpico. While Roma wasn't up to the mustard against Madrid, keep in mind, they're still riding a four-match win streak, so will the pink-clad Sicilians stand a chance at halting that streak?
But first, a look back to a sun soaked Sicilian day when Roma was rolling...
October 4, 2015: Roma 4, Palermo 2
When Miralem Pjanic scores a goal in the run of play in only the second minute of the match, you know you're in for a strange afternoon, and with six goals between them, Roma and Palermo certainly delivered one of the more entertaining matches of the year. Pjanic would strike again, setting up perhaps the easiest goal of Alessandro Florenzi's career in the 13th minute, putting Roma up 2-0. While the Giallorossi headed into the half with a 3-0 break, in traditional fashion, they came out and shit the bed early in the second half, surrendering a goal to Alberto Gilardino in the 58th minute.
Fortunately, they didn't cough up the entire match and walked away 4-2 winners thanks to a last minute goal from Gervinho, who is now hanging out with Pandas. Funny how times change, isn't it?
Strive For Five
All that really stands between Roma and their fifth consecutive victory is the outstanding play of Alberto Gilardino, Oscar Hiljemark and Franco Vazquez, who have combined for 15 goals and 12 assists, or almost the entirely of Palermo's attack. While Palermo aren't exactly tearing up the table, these three have wreaked enough havoc to cause some serious consternation among Roma's backline. Plus, you know, Gila has a habit of showing up against Roma (12 goals in 30 matches).
So, then, it's only fitting that we turn our attention to said defense. With Daniele De Rossi sidelined for a month, Spalletti's three-man backline is essentially dead and buried until the spring. In the absence of DDR's skilled feet, look for Spalletti to fall back on Roma's defense by default, the quartet of Lucas Digne, Antonio Rüdiger, Kostas Manolas and Alessandro Florenzi. Fresh off a solid midweek performance against Madrid, Manolas and company should be well prepared to tackle Gilardino and Vazquez.
While Spalletti seems to have settled on a steady 12 to 13 man rotation, there remains much equivocation about the man leading the line. Edin Dzeko seemed to get off the proverbial schnide last week, only to be benched against Madrid (though there may have been fitness issues); with Spalletti opting for a Diego Perotti led 4-6-0ish formation. And against a side as poor as Palermo, this could be a good time for Dzeko to feast on some feeble defending, but he doesn't exactly have Spalletti's confidence in tow, much less his own.
Let's set all that aside for a moment and focus on the big (jawed) newsâKevin Strootman has been included in tomorrow's squad list. While I remain a fervent skeptic about the Washing Machine's ability to contribute to Roma this season, or indeed ever again, this is certainly a welcomed development. On the pitch we know what Strootman can bring, but one needn't look any further than the famous clip of Strootman jawing with opposing fans to be reminded of what he means to this club and to the fanbase. It could be the first step in the Dutch Jesuus' resurrection, or just a complete tease. We simply don't know; just don't expect to see him take the pitch tomorrow.
In any event, Roma, suddenly flush with controversy, will have to tame Gila and Vazquez if they are to make it five straight.