We’ve watched the Roma roller coaster ascend and plummet throughout the first half of the 2018-19 season. At times, the Giallorossi have teased us with some fine performances, only to let us down the next week. As the first half of the season comes to an end on Saturday in Parma, Roma has the chance to leave us with a positive feeling before heading off on its winter break.
Parma vs. Roma: December 29th. 15:00 CET/9:00 EST. Stadio Tardini, Parma.
Coming off its comprehensive victory against Sassuolo at the Olimpico, Roma has a chance to do something it hasn’t done in months; string together victories. The team hasn’t won back-to-back games in the league since early October, when it ran off three straight wins against Frosinone, Lazio, and Empoli. After the Sassuolo match, Di Francesco praised his team saying,
“I think this was possibly our best performance of the season on a technical level. We’re on the right track. I saw lots of good things, especially from our forwards making runs in behind and keeping a high line. We’d prepared those things before the game and were able to put them into practice. It’s a shame about the late goal we conceded but otherwise I’m happy with how the lads played today.”
If Roma are a true contender for a top four spot then I Lupi will have to prove it by following up what their coach called the team’s best performance. Contenders need to rattle off win streaks to separate themselves from the pretenders. They especially need to assert themselves against lesser opponents, as Roma did against the Neroverdi; something it has rarely done this season, en route to dropping many points against bottom half sides. Di Francesco emphasized the need to similarly take the game to Parma saying,
“It won’t be at all easy, I can tell you that. Sassuolo allow you to play an open game. We did well today and we must carry this enthusiasm into the match against Parma – our desire to take the game to the opposition, to make runs in behind and win the ball back immediately while remaining very focused defensively.”
Roma needs a victory against a Parma side, who despite beating Fiorentina on Boxing Day isn’t playing its best football. When asked about playing Parma EdF said, “They’re very difficult to play against. They might not have much possession but they sit deep and get the ball up to their forwards really quickly. It won’t be easy and it will be different to this game against Sassuolo.”
Roma will have to been cautious not to get caught out on the counter attack in a match where they will likely control large swaths of possession. This will be especially true if ex-Roma man Gervinho, who is returning from injury, is fit enough to start after a cameo in Florence on Wedneday. Parma pose a threat and Roma can’t get complacent.
Despite all of Roma’s up and down play and the fact that they enter the Parma match in seventh place, things are not quite as bad as they seem. In fact, thanks to the mutual ineptness of many of the teams that surround i Lupi on the table, especially Milan and Lazio; the Giallorossi are well within striking distance of a coveted Champions League place. With 20 games to play Roma only trails it’s city rivals by four points entering match day 19. I Lupi can’t enter the winter recess in fourth, but could climb as high as fifth by leapfrogging Milan and Sampdoria; with Milan struggling to score and Samp facing Juve, this is a very realistic possibility if Roma win against the Ducali.
Of course, Roma must handle its business first and foremost. Roma is in the midst of a run of five matches against teams surrounding them in the table with Torino, Atalanta, and Milan following Parma. It’s a stretch that could make or break Roma’s Champions League hopes before they even sniff the Derby della Capitale in early March. Win those matches and Roma will gain valuable breathing room and put pressure on Lazio. Come out with a bag of mixed results and Roma could again be hovering around mid-table. So, even though in name Roma v Parma may not sound like a big match, it could be vital to setting the stage for the rest of the season.
Despite jumping up from tenth to seventh after a comprehensive victory over Sassuolo at the Olimpico on Boxing Day, Roma are liable to be jumped by Parma and a handful of other teams if they lose at the Tardini. The table is more fluid than the ebb and flow of the tides at the moment, which makes this match and the ones that immediately follow the break so vital to the Giallorossi. If Roma can build on the Sassuolo victory with another solid victory, the trajectory of the rest of the season could be set on the right course, while a loss could again set it adrift.