Following a brief bout of Garciaitis (symptoms include stagnating offense, blown leads, draws and frequent urination), Roma is suddenly back to her winning ways. Last week's 3-2 victory over Genoa was Roma's third straight and has, in case you'd forgotten, run their unbeaten streak to 15, which includes a dozen victories. That brief little hiccup in late March and early April really overshadowed the remarkable transformation the club has undertaken since losing 1-0 to Juventus in late January. In fact, since January 30th, Roma have taken 39 of a possible 45 points, a mark bested by only, you guessed it, Juventus. As always, it's the draws that make the difference.
Nevertheless, Roma will look to close out the season on a high note, and heap further pressure upon second place Napoli, when they tangle with the Flying Donkeys of Chievo bright and early Sunday morning (if you happen to live in the Western Hemisphere), so let's take a quick look at the ins and outs of this one, shall we?
Damn Good Donkeys
We talked about Roma's torrid run through 2016, well Chievo isn't that far behind them. Since January 30th, Chievo has amassed 22 points, the league's sixth best mark since that arbitrary cutoff point. On the balance of the season, Chievo has been, well, Chievo. With 43 goals scored and 42 goals conceded, the Donkeys have been about as average as average gets, sitting in 9th place, though when you look at the statistics, they've outkicked their coverage a bit, as they generally fall between 12th and 20th in most categories.
As far as the nuts and bolts are concerned, Chievo has received several solid yet underwhelming performances from several players; they just don't have "that guy" to put them over the top, though with 11 goals and 14 assists between them, Riccardo Meggiorini and Valter Birsa have made quite the tandem.
Bottom line, there isn't any one thing Chievo does particularly well, but they aren't exactly deplorable in any aspect of the game either, which always makes for a dangerous opponent. Furthemore, they've actually fared better (comparatively speaking) on the road than at home, where they've taken 21 points, the league's 9th best mark.
As we mentioned earlier today, if Totti takes the pitch tomorrow, it will mark his 600th Serie A appearance, joining Paolo Maldini and Javier Zanetti in that exclusive club, though Totti would be the only attacking player in that trio, of course. Furthemore, given his heroics over the past six weeks or so, you have to like the odds of him reaching this milestone tomorrow morning/afternoon.
Beyond Totti's hopefully inevitable second half appearance, the biggest spot of bother, or curiosity I suppose, is what to do with Kevin Strootman. The Dutch Jesuus was magnificent last week, but it wasn't his steadying presence or even the two chances created that were noteworthy. Making his first start since January of 2015, Strootman shocked us all by playing (and playing well) for a full 90 minutes. While that's all well and good, you have to wonder how much (if at all) he'll play tomorrow. If Roma are to maximize Strootman's return next season, they'll need to keep a close on his minutes, both in gross terms and how frequently he plays; between Totti and Strootman, Luciano Spalletti has a lot of finagling to do next season.
As far as the rest of the squad is concerned, it's all hands on deck. While the backline wasn't at its best last week, Mohamed Salah, Diego Perotti and Stephan El Shaarawy were hitting on all cylinders, accounting for nine shots, three chances created, two goals and one assist between them. Say it once or say it a million times and you still haven't said it enough; these three are absolutely ideal for this system; it's really a sight to behold.
Once again, Roma will have the advantage of taking care of their business early, leaving the rest of the day open to table watching, well Napoli watching at least. The Partenopei kickoff at 2:45 EDT time tomorrow against 10th place Torino, who are fresh off a 5-1 beatdown of Udinese.
However, before we all become quasi-Torino fans, Roma must tame the Flying Donkeys of Chievo. With Totti's milestone and millions of euros at stake, Roma has every reason to win tomorrow.