The world of women's football took another international break over the past two weeks, focusing on, among other things, Euro 2021 qualification. While Elisa Bartoli, Manuela Giugliano and Giada Greggi were busy dominating Georgia and Malta by a combined 11-0 scoreline, women's football saw arguably it's biggest development in years dominate the news cycle in spite of the break in action.
Sam Kerr, the Australian scoring sensation and one of the world's best players, left the friendly confines of Chicago and the NWSL and signed with Chelsea for a reported €400,000 salary, placing her alongside Lyon's Ada Hegerberg as the highest paid players in women's football. In doing so, Kerr and Chelsea may have inadvertently (or perhaps...vertently?) kicked off an arms race in women's football.
With Italy still stuck in the dark ages (players can't be paid more than €30,000) don't expect any Italian teams to be competing for top talent any time soon, let alone making waves in the Champions League. Kerr's move to Europe could signal a shift in the balance of power in women's football, away from its customary seat in the United States to the glitz and glamour of Europe and the traditional glory of the Champions League.
These developments aren't immediately relevant to Roma, but they are nonetheless newsworthy and potentially a paradigm shifting moment for women's football. If Roma want to sniff this rarefied air, they'll have to fight tooth and nail to finish top two in the league, a goal they can make significant progress towards this weekend.
After five rounds, Roma sit in third place on 12 points, nestled in behind Juventus in first place (15 points) and AC Milan in second place (13 points). While that's been the case for most of the season, the beauty of round six is simply this: Milan and Juve are squaring off in the final fixture of the weekend, one that could have dramatic implications for the title race.
A Juventus victory over Milan, coupled with Roma doing the same to Florentia earlier in the day, would see the Giallorosse leapfrog Milan into second place, which would be their highest spot ever in the table and temporarily put them in the driver's seat for Italy's final Champions League berth.
Of course, we can really only worry about the match in front of us, a Sunday afternoon kickoff against Florentia San Gimignano, the club against whom Roma scored their first ever league victory last season.
FSG (hey, it works for Paris Saint-Germain, why not?) entered the new Serie A season with a newly branded name and new kit colors, swapping out red/white/blue for black and green. They also managed to nab Emma Lipman, Roma's starting center back for much of last season. While it was sad to see Lipman—the club's de facto spokeswoman to the English-speaking world—leave, she's played each and every minute for FSG this season, and even earned her first international cap with Malta (obtained via her grandparents), so it's safe to say she made the proper choice.
Despite their new look and their new English-Malta international, Florentia struggled out the gate, dropping their first three matches by a combined score of 9-4. The Tuscan club has rebounded, however, winning their last two matches prior to break, a point not lost on Roma coach Betty Bavagnoli:
We come into this game with great desire to keep making progress...But do that then we have to go up against a good, well-organised side – one that has been playing well regardless of what the league table might say....We need to put in an intelligent performance and have the patience to deal with any tough moments during the game
Leave it to the coach to take the cautious, measured approach. Limpan's defensive partner last year, Allyson Swaby, was more confident of Roma's chances tomorrow:
It's interesting to hear a central defender point to the attack as the key to the match, but she's absolutely right. Swaby, Federica Di Criscio and Tecla Pettenuzzo have created a formidable rotation in the center of defense, but Roma's bread is buttered up top, where Bavagnoli's offense has become one of the most explosive and entertaining units in the league.
With 12 goals in five matches, the Giallorosse's attack is third best in the league, behind only (you guessed it), Juventus and Milan. What's most impressive about Roma's attack is the depth and breadth of the goal scoring talent. Initially billed as the Annamaria Serturini Experience, Roma's attack has blossomed into a well-balanced, six or seven deep crew, with Serturini sharing the goal scoring lead with Agnese Bonfantini and Vanessa Bernauer, while SIX other players have found the back of the net thus far, including newcomers Manuela Giugliano, Amalie Thestrup, Andrine Hegerberg and Lindsey Thomas.
Roma may not have a global superstar like Sam Kerr, but they definitely have enough talent to make Serie A their personal playground. And if the cards fall right tomorrow—if Roma's attack overwhelms FSG and Juventus top Milan—then week seven could get very, very interesting when Roma and Juve square off in a potential six pointer.
However, before we go counting our chickens, let's channel our inner Bavagnoli and focus on the task at hand: beating Florentia.