For the past couple of weeks, our coverage of Betty Bavagnoli's side has focused on the state of limbo in which Roma currently exists. With Italy's final Champions League spot a distant 11 points away and Roma firmly in fourth place, the Giallorosse are a little short on tangible objectives in their inaugural domestic campaign. The same cannot be said for the Coppa Italia, where the women of Rome remain alive and well, and seem like a lock for a date with Fiorentina in the semi-finals.
With nearly 3/4ths of the Serie A season in the books, a clear pecking order has been established: It's Juventus, Fiorentina, AC Milan, Roma and then everyone else. With 12 points separating league leading Juve and fourth place Roma—a gap that could have conceivably been four or five points closer had Roma gotten off to a better start—the top four clubs have feasted pretty well on the eight squads below them this season.
Roma vs. Roma CF: February 20th. 14:30 CET/8:30 EST. Stadio Tre Fontane, Roma.
And while that may not be good for league parity, it's good for Roma. Coincidentally enough, that same stratification has carried over to the Coppa Italia, where those same four sides each hold multi-goal advantages heading into the second leg of tomorrow's quarterfinal match-ups.
And when I say multi-goal, I mean multi-goal...
January 30th: Roma CF 3, Roma 6
Six! Count 'em, six! Roma hung six goals—six away goals at that—on their city rivals in the first leg. Despite that lopsided scoreline, Roma CF actually drew first blood, beating Valentina Casaroli in the 15th minute. Our Roma would come roaring back in the 24th minute thanks to a strike from Martina Piemonte, but CF would respond once more, grabbing the lead in the 26th minute, one they would hold heading into the half. I wasn't able to catch this match live, but catching that update on my phone was SHOCKING.
But then came the deluge. Roma would equalize in the 50th minute thanks to New Jersey's own Maria Zecca, who scored her first goal with the club, knotting the match at 2-2, where it would stand for another 20 minutes. Then, with the match creaking towards the final quarter hour, Giada Greggia capitalized on a horrific error from the CF keeper, who literally just dropped the ball in the middle of a crowd, giving Roma momentarily lead. I say momentarily because the other Roma would strike back almost immediately, leveling the match once more.
Tied at 3-3, Roma tacked on three additional goals in the matches final minutes, as Elisa Bartoli, Manuela Coluccini and Greggi each found the back of the net, giving Roma the precious away goals advantage we just spoke about.
Thanks to that impressive surge to close the match, Roma set themselves up quite nicely ahead of tomorrow's fixture, where all they really have to do is, you know, not lose 4-0 at home.
While that's rather simple math, one thing that continues to flummox me is the amount of breaks scheduled into the Serie A Femminile schedule. Following tomorrow's quarter final fixtures, the league is off until the middle of March, which makes predicting tomorrow's lineups a bit tough. (The league is breaking, in part, for the Cyprus Cup, a 12-team international tournament—Roma are sending Azzurre representatives Bartoli, Serturini, Agnese Bonfantini and Rosalia Pipitone.)
In the first fixture, Bavagnoli managed a near full renovation of her starting eleven, replacing nearly all of her nominal starters, save for Annamaria Serturini, Elisa Bartoli and Claudia Ciccotti. With such a tremendous away goal advantage in her pocket, she has every reason to do the same tomorrow, but with that long league layoff looming (say that five times fast) she might opt for continuity instead.
Whatever she decides, that three goal advantage gives Bavagnoli the luxury of mixing and matching, but if the first leg proved anything, it's that Roma CF are more than capable of catching the Giallorosse off guard.
Considering all that, don't be surprised if Bavagnoli starts at least one of Bonfantini, Serturini, Piemonte, Greggi or Luisa Pugnali tomorrow. Grabbing an early goal and putting this thing to bed would be an ideal way to start the international break.
The league may be too far gone at this point, but that's the beauty of the Coppa Italia: Roma's sluggish start to the season is irrelevant. In this race, Roma, Juventus, Milan and Fiorentina are all on level pegging.
Doing the unthinkable, winning a trophy in their first year, is not only...umm, thinkable...it's entirely possible.