After suffering two straight defeats—a shocker to Florentia and a blowout at the hands of Juventus—the Roma women have rebounded with two wins in a row to start December, toppling Tavagnacco and Inter Milan in successive weeks. Their win over newly promoted Inter was particularly impressive as the Giallorosse recaptured their high flying spirit from last season, leaving no doubt as to who was the better team that day, waxing Inter 4-1. Roma were fast, relentless and clinical in attack; it was a sight to behold.
And now it's a sight we get to witness twice this week, as the Giallorosse kick off their 2020 Coppa Italia quest with an away fixture against Bari on Wednesday, who currently sit in 10th place in the league table.
Bari vs. Roma: December 11th. 12:30 CET/6:30 EST. Stadio Antonacci, Bitetto.
Roma made a miracle run in last season's competition before bowing out to Fiorentina in the semi-finals, and given the level of investment they made in the club over the summer, no to mention their current form, we should expect nothing less—reaching the semis should be the minimally expected outcome for Roma in 2020.
If you've been following our coverage of the Roma women lately, you've likely noticed Betty Bavagnoli's tinkering. Bavagnoli, the reigning coach of the year, has yet to settle on a consistent starting eleven this season, seemingly making a change in midfield or defense each week, likely contributing to the somewhat uneven performances we've seen thus far.
Through nine weeks of play, Bavagnoli has leaned heavily on Camelia Ceasar, Manuela Giugliano, Annamaria Serturini, Lindsey Thomas, Kaja Erzen and Elisa Bartoli, each of whom has already eclipsed 600 minutes on the pitch. Outside of those six stalwarts, Bavagnoli hasn't really settled on an A-team (so to speak), doling out inconsistent minutes to Amalie Thestrup, Vanessa Bernauer, Allyson Swaby, Giada Greggi and Agnese Bonfantini among others.
Now, I'm not suggesting that she run the same 11 players into the ground before we even reach the half-way point of the season, but certainly the club's best lineup features Serturini, Greggi and Bonfantini, a trio we've seldom seen on the pitch together through nine rounds of play.
One change that has paid recent dividends was the inclusion of Andressa Alves into the starting lineup; a move we were clamoring for earlier this month. Andressa, the FIFPRO XI finalist, was a bit of an afterthought through the first two months of the season, remaining planted on the bench behind the likes of Giugliano, Bernauer and Andrine Hegerberg in the midfield.
However, with Giugliano suffering a knee sprain against Juventus, Andressa was inserted into the starting lineup against Tavagnacco and Inter Milan, responding with three goals in two matches, including a beauty last weekend against Inter, which has now been nominated by the league as a goal of the week candidate:
Perfect technique, pinpoint placement— AS Roma English (@ASRomaEN) December 10, 2019
A sublime finish from @10andressaalves!
[via @ASRomaWomen] pic.twitter.com/Q8aMyHFSI0
A sensational left-footed effort assisted by CdT favorite Agnese Bonfantini was the standout moment in Roma's 4-1 thrashing of Inter Milan and provided a glimpse of what the Brazilian can provide in the run of play—timely late runs into the box, tight give and goes and sublime finishing.
We'll have to see how Bavagnoli rotates the midfield when Giugliano returns from injury, but unfortunately for Roma, Bavagnoli's hand will be forced in defense as well. Federica Di Criscio, a 26-year-old defender who has played center-back, full-back and midfield during her year-and-a-half with Roma, suffered a torn ACL last week against Inter Milan, undergoing successful surgery yesterday.
Everything you've just read is a good problem—Roma were dying for this kind of depth last season—but at some point we have to hope that Bavagnoli finds her prime-time lineup, one that can pose a credible threat to the likes of Juventus.
There will be no such worries tomorrow—a trip to 10th place Bari should be winnable no matter who she starts—but it could be a golden opportunity to get some minutes under Giada Greggi and even Heden Corrados legs, who could be in line for a larger role in Di Criscio's absence.
Either way, with the top of the league table inordinately tight, Roma's best bet at an actual trophy this year might be the Coppa Italia, and for a club only in its second year of existence, that could be a tremendous catapult towards greater success.