It's still early days in the 2020-2021 season, but one thing is abundantly clear: Roma are living two separate lives—one in Serie A and another in the Europa League. Much like a travelling salesman from the 1950s having two families, Roma are living an equally egregious lie, with Paulo Fonseca showering his domestic squad with love and attention while neglecting his European family. Where Edin Dzeko gets praise and genuine affection, Borja Mayoral is stuck with hand me down presents and half-hearted pats on the back.
It's a razor's edge we're treading, but those divided loyalties have become increasingly apparent as we head through the fall, with Roma trading off solid Serie A performances for absolutely putrid displays of football in Europe.
Roma vs. Fiorentina: November 1st. 18:00 CET/12:00 EST. Stadio Olimpico, Roma.
But Fonseca knows which family truly butters his bread, so expect the big guns to show up tomorrow as Roma returns to league play with a home fixture against 10th place Fiorentina, a team that bears a striking resemblance to Roma at the moment.
Roma and Fiorentina have shared the spoils over their past six matches—two wins apiece, two defeats apiece and two draws—so we should expect the unexpected.
But that doesn't mean this match is impossible to predict or lacking storylines, so let's take a look at the headlines heading into this round six fixture.
Keep An Eye On
Are Fiorentina Roma's Twin?
As we enter round six, Roma and Fiorentina have put up remarkably similar performances after five matches. Roma enter this match in 9th place on eight points while Fiorentina sit in 10th on seven points. Roma have scored 11 goals while maintaining a +1 goal differential while Fiorentina have found the back of the net 10 times and sport a perfectly even goal differential. Roma have a hodge-podge lineup of veterans, young players and free agents just like the Viola, and both sides play variants of the 3-5-2.
Records aside, the deeper you dig, the more the differences between these two sides reveal themselves. And it really all begins and ends with shooting and scoring efficiency. Through five matches, Fiorentina are (albeit narrowly) outperforming their xG total while Roma have underperformed by one goal—which is actually 5th worst in Serie A.
In terms of shot performance, Roma's 30% on target rate is the league's 5th worst mark (Fiorentina are two spots above them), Roma's 0.11 goals/shot is the fourth-worst (Fiorentina are 4th best) and their 0.35 goals/shots on target is the 9th worst mark in the league (Fiorentina are 2nd best).
All of which is to say, despite scoring fewer goals and running out a lower xG, Fiorentina are making better and more efficient use of their shots; traits that continue to evade Roma.
And a lot of that has to do with this guy...
With four goals and one assist in five appearances, the 23-year-old Castrovilli is blossoming before our very eyes, lessening the blow of losing Federico Chiesa in the process. Part and parcel of Castrovilli's early success is some outrageous accuracy and efficiency. While he's extremely unlikely to sustain this pace, Castrovilli is putting an astounding 70% of his shots on target while averaging 0.40 goals/shot, the league's 4th best mark, and is outperforming his xG total by 2.4, the league's 3rd best (or luckiest, depending on you absorb xG) mark.
If we check in with Fiorentina a month from now, chances are Castrovilli will have fallen off somewhat, but right now he's one of the hottest players in the league and should command Roma's attention in the final third.
Will Rick Karsdorp or Bruno Peres Step-Up?
You don't have to be a Roma lifer to understand and appreciate the club's struggles at full-back, particularly at right back. With Alessandro Florenzi jettisoned last year, Fonseca had no choice but to rely on the newly returned Bruno Peres and the solid but underwhelming Davide Santon. Peres was a revelation during the restart but has since come crashing back to earth, and with Florenzi declining a chance to return to Roma, Fonseca has essentially hosted an open competition between Peres and Rick Karsdorp for the RB/RWB spot—and the results have been underwhelming.
While Peres scored the equalizer against BSC Young Boys earlier this month, his play since then has been less than inspiring, an adjective we can apply to the whole of Karsdorp's Roma career. But here's the rub: with both Peres and Karsdorp struggling so far, Fonseca seemed like he was starting to rely on Santon, who, at the very least, could provide serviceable coverage at the position.
However, now that Santon is dealing with his own injury problems, one of Peres or Karsdorp has to rise to the occasion. We don't need a miracle—just a few decent crosses and perhaps a few hard-charging tackles into Castrovilli tomorrow—so whichever reclamation project can manage that should have the inside track at starter's minutes for the foreseeable future, while the other will languish in Europa League purgatory.
Those are just a few things to keep an eye on in tomorrow's match, but what do you think: will Fiorentina give Roma trouble or are we looking at an easy three points?
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