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Victory Over Sassuolo Could Close Roma's Gap on Second Place

With Fiorentina and Milan facing off above them, Roma can close the gap on second place if they defeat Sassuolo on Sunday.

Andressa (L) and Agnese Bonfantini (R) celebrate against Verona
AS Roma Women

While their last two opponents, the San Marino Academy and Hellas Verona, weren't exactly been world beaters, Roma stacked up two impressive victories, towering over their opponents by a combined 12-1 scoreline. Throw in their 2-1 victory over Empoli from early February and the Giallorosse have effectively recovered from their two match dip at the end of January, where they fell to AC Milan and drew Fiorentina—more on them in a minute.

Propelled by Andressa and Agnese Bonfantini, Roma's attack has looked as sharp as we've ever seen over the past three matches. We've mentioned it several times over the past few weeks, but it bears repeating: Roma's capture of Andressa made huge waves over the summer for one simple reason—she's offers a unique blend of scoring and creating, a dynamism that saw her included among the FIFPRO World XI nominees for 2019. And after a slow start to her life in Serie A, Andressa has come on like gangbusters in 2020. In her last two matches alone, she has two goals and five assists, providing Betty Bavagnoli with the kind of seamless attacking ingenuity managers dream of.

Bonfantini, meanwhile, appears to be coming into her own at all of 20-years-old. While Bavagnoli has mixed and matched her front-line this season, Bonfantini has been a mainstay, logging nearly 1,000 minutes in 15 league appearances. Her most recent 90 minutes, last week against Verona, were undeniably the best of her career as she bagged the first hat-trick in club history, pushing her season total to six, good enough for fifth place in the league scoring race.

Roma haven't had too many drops in form this season, but suffice it to say, this was the sort of team Bavagnoli was envisioning when drawing up her plans for the 2019-2020 season back in August. She's getting rock solid keeping from Camelia Ceasar at the back, quick and deft centerback play from Allyson Swaby and Tecla Pettenuzzo, incisive runs forward from Elisa Bartoli and/or Kaja Erzen and Angelica Soffia at the full-back spots, the midfield trio of Andrine Hegerberg, Manuela Giugliano and Andressa have provided creativity and defensive rigidity in equal measures, while the forward rotation of Bonfantini, Lindsey Thomas, Annamaria Serturini and Amalie Thestrup have amassed 22 league goals.

While Bavagnoli will likely tinker with that lineup somewhat, Roma will take their scorching form on the road to face fifth place Sassuolo Sunday afternoon. The Nerorverde are perched just below Roma on the table, but are in a bit of a funk of their own, having lost two of their last three league matches.

However, as we so often say, you overlook an opponent—any opponent—at your own peril. On her Round 16 foes, Bavagnoli chose to err on the side of caution:

Sassuolo want the same thing, of course, so it should be a great game...For us it’s a positive spell, we are improving and we want to keep on improving – not just from a tactical perspective but from a mental one too,” Bavagnoli added.

We’ve prepared well for this game, we know we are going up against a really good side and it should be a high-quality game. We are well aware of Sasuolo’s ability and the quality of their players. They are a determined side, that can change the way they play.

Sassuolo sit in fifth place on 23 points, eight behind Roma, and sport a +11 goal differential. So, while they're not quite as prolific as the clubs above them, the Neroverde are a well rounded side led by one of Italy's most potent goal scorers, Daniela Sabatino, who has found the back of the net 12 times in 15 appearances. With well over 200 goals to her name, Sabatino can (and has) won many a match on her own merit, so Swaby and Pettenuzzo will likely have their hands full with the league's second leading scorer, one who has a habit of gifting her club the lead, as seven of her goals have done thus far.

While you want the team's focus solely on the match at hand, to ignore the rest of the fixture list would be to keep your head in the sand. Currently mired in fourth place, four points behind Fiorentina and AC Milan in second and third place respectively, Roma's fight for second place took a swift blow when they dropped points to both of those sides in January...buuutttt, the schedule makers have done Roma a favor this week, as Milan and Fiorentina square off in Milano.

A draw between those sides, coupled with a Roma victory over Sassuolo, would cut Roma's second place deficit to two points. And while they'd still need a bit of help from the rest of the league down the stretch, given their current form, you have to like Roma's chances to make things interesting as we work our way towards the spring.

Sassuolo won’t roll over, of course, but if Roma bring the same pace and intensity we saw last week, then the combination of Andressa's passing and the speed of Thomas, Bonfantini and Serturini should be enough to swallow Sassuolo whole.