Throughout our two plus years of covering Serie A Femminile, we've trumpeted the competition as an entertaining albeit top-heavy league, one in which only three clubs could lay claim to genuine title aspirations: Juventus, AC Milan and Fiorentina. While Roma have been trying trying desperately to enter that race since 2018, for the past two seasons, the Giallorosse have been on the outside looking in. Despite making incremental progress in their first two seasons, Roma haven't been able to break those championship ranks just yet, as the past two league titles have been hotly contested between only two clubs: Juventus and Fiorentina.
With nearly 30% of the season in the books, Juventus remain perched atop the table, followed closely by a surprising Sassuolo side in second, while AC Milan are three points off the pace in third place. Scroll down the table a little further and you'll see two more 2020-2021 surprises: Roma and Fiorentina, the league's 5th and 6th placed teams, respectively.
Roma vs. Fiorentina: November 7th. 12:30 CET/6:30 EST. Stadio Tre Fontane, Roma.
There is still ample time for either club to correct course and restore a bit of the natural order to the league table, but for two clubs laden with talent and brimming with optimism back in September, their struggles have been incredibly shocking.
So, what's the story? How have two front runners fallen behind the pack through the first six weeks?
Well, for Fiorentina, the answer is rather simple: they've been conceding goals at an alarming rate. Through six matches, the Viola have surrendered 12 goals, the league's fourth worst mark. Granted, seven of those came against Sassuolo and Juventus, but we're talking about a club that only allowed 15 goals all last season while sporting a +25 goal differential.
Losing their taliswoman Alia Guagni to Atletico Madrid over the summer is certainly part of that equation, but in order to compete in a league as condensed as this, you have to defeat your direct rivals; something the Viola haven't been able to accomplish thus far. That they've managed to even keep their heads above water is testament to their shrewd summer signing of Daniela Sabatino, whose six goals trails only Juve's Cristiana Girelli atop the leader board and constitute nearly 50% of Fiorentina's 13 league goals.
As far as Roma are concerned, they've taken a bit from Column A and a bit from Column B; their defense isn't quite as leaky as the Viola but their attack is nowhere near as prolific. With only six goals allowed, the Giallorosse's defense is the third stingiest in the league, but the true headache rests at the other end of the pitch, where Roma's once vaunted attack has been ground to a halt this season—their 1.50 goals per 90 minutes ranks sixth in the league.
While new signing Paloma Lázaro, who actually arrived from Fiorentina over the summer, has had a transformative effect on Betty Bavagnoli's attack, the precision and sheer entertainment factor from last season has vanished.
To put it in perspective, consider this: after six rounds of play last season, Roma scored 13 goals en route to a 4-2 start to the season. The late arrival of Brazilian playmaker Andressa Alves due to the vagaries of international travel during a global pandemic (and her belated honeymoon) certainly played a factor in Roma's sluggish start, but the real culprit in this disappearing act has been some woefully inefficient finishing. Roma are creating chances well enough but the final product has been lacking, as has the spread of goals—only three players (Lázaro, Serturini and Andressa) have scored in league play.
Roma ameliorated that in the final match before this most recent international break, a last ditch 3-2 win over San Marino, but with Fiorentina, Milan and Juventus all on the docket over the next several weeks, Roma's lack of precision in front of goal could be their undoing.
There is a sliver lining, though. With Manuela Giugliano playing like a star reborn. Lázaro's emergence and Annamaria Serturini's last minute heroics, Roma are never far from a breakthrough and can, when you bring Agnese Bonfantini and Lindsey Thomas into the equation, outrun any defense in the league.
Betty Bavagnoli has done well to keep her side engaged and motivated during their early stumbles and can actually gain a bit of ground on the top two this weekend if Juventus can defeat second place Sassuolo.
So, if you're looking for a turnaround match, here it is. Fiorentina may not be the same club they were last year, but a victory on Saturday could be a signal of intent for Roma. With 70% of the season remaining and six pointers against Juve and Milan over the next month, Roma can get back into the mix in Serie A.