With the COVID-19 virus still raging in Northern Italy, the FIGC has already postponed the remaining three quarterfinal fixtures of the Coppa Italia scheduled to be played in Firenze, Sassuolo and Torino, respectively. With the virus being contained (for now) to Northern Italy, the second leg of Roma's Coppa Italia Quarterfinal against the San Marino Academy—set for kick-off at the Stadio Tre Fontane in Rome on Wednesday—will go on as planned, making it the only quarterfinal to actually be played as scheduled.
In their first season in the competition, Roma made a surprise run to the Semifinals of the 2019 Coppa Italia before bowing out to Fiorentina, and by breezing past the San Marino Academy 6-1 two weeks ago, Roma seem safe to repeat that feat.
In case you need a reminder of Roma's six-pack of San Marino scores, let me refresh your memory.
February 8, 2020: San Marino 1, Roma 6
As an independent republic playing in Italy's Serie B Femminile, San Marino were a novel opponent in some ways, but they were simply no match for Roma when the rubber met the road. While they did well enough to stifle Roma for the first hand full of minutes, it didn't take long for the Giallorosse to impose their will on San Marino.
With goals from Angelica Soffia, a sublime header from Allyson Swaby, a PK from Andressa and three more from Elisa Bartoli, Agnese Bonfantini and Amalie Thestrup, Roma ran roughshod over their Serie B opponents, erasing a tepid opening before blowing the roof off the place.
Roma v. San Marino Academy: Feb. 26th. 14:30CET/8:30 EST. Stadio Tre Fontane, Roma.
San Marino grabbed a late consolation goal, but thanks to six goals (and away goals at that), Roma gave themselves ample breathing room for tomorrow's second leg, one that should see plenty of turnover from Betty Bavagnoli.
Empty the Bench, Betty!
In her pre-match comments, Bavagnoli didn't play coy when asked about her lineup plans:
Tomorrow there will be a way to field other players, we are a very united group and all the girls know that we follow our game philosophy and they all know what they have to do. Tomorrow I will be able to use fresh forces and turn-over
I'm not entirely sure if Bavagnoli plans on swapping out all eleven players, but we can safely remove some of the club's heaviest legs from the equation. Lindsey Thomas, Camelia Ceasar, Elisa Bartoli, Tecla Pettenuzzo, Kaja Erzen and Allyson Swaby have all crossed the 1,000 minute threshold, so we can probably count them out from this one. In the 900 minute club we have Agnese Bonfantini, Annamaria Serturini, Manuela Giugliano and Andrine Hegerberg, while Andressa and Amalie Thestrup are not far behind with more than 850 minutes each.
I seldom do this, but let's take a stab at tomorrow's lineup;
While Bavagnoli spent most of the early part of the season working out the kinks in her lineup, her chosen eleven has coalesced in recent weeks, centering around the goal scoring talents of Bonfantini, Andressa and Thomas. That tactical continuity has certainly produced impressive results lately, but players like Greggi, Serturini, Thestrup and Vanessa Bernauer have seen their minutes shrink in 2020, so they seem like safe bets to start this one.
With such an enormous advantage heading into this second leg, Bavagnoli might round out her semi-regulars by really digging deep and giving season debuts to Heden Corrado in defense and Valentina Casaroli in goal, while the seldom seen Claudia Ciccotti, Eleonora Cunsolo and Maria Zecca could be options for the rest of Bavagnoli's lineup.
Some of these players haven't seen action since the fall and some will be playing slightly out of position, but what better time to get crazy than now? Five away-goal aggregate leads don't come along everyday, after all.
Roma will go on international break for nearly a month following Wednesday's match, and with so many of her players on national team duty (either senior or U-23), this may be the last time Bavagnoli can get her core players some much needed rest before the stretch run.