There's no denying that the start of the 2020-2021 season was a bit rough for AS Roma. Entering the season with top of the table aspirations, the Giallorosse stumbled out the gate, dropping points in five of their first eight matches. Plagued by inefficient finishing and struggling in close matches, Roma has slipped all the way down to eighth place. But, if you look for silver linings, the club's recent performances in the Supercoppa semifinal against Juventus, where they took the reigning champions to extra time, and their 7-0 dismantling of Roma CF in the Coppa Italia should buoy your spirits.
Roma vs. Napoli: January 17th. 14:30 CET/8:30 EST. Stadio Tre Fontane, Roma.
Even if you're not one for moral victories, the fight Roma showed against Juventus was incredibly encouraging. And when you throw in the impressive performance from some of the club's youngest players in last week's cup match, not to mention their late-week signing of Italy star defender Elena Linari, Roma should be riding high as they welcome Napoli to the Stadio Tre Fontane for the first-ever Derby del Sole in Serie A Femminle.
Newcomers to Serie A, Napoli have struggled mightily through the first 10 weeks of the season. With an 0-1-9 (W-D-L) record, Napoli is the league’s only winless team and has scored one goal or less in nine of their ten matches and currently sport a -14 goal differential, the third-worst mark in the league.
As one might imagine, there aren't many layers or much nuance to this Napoli side, though they do feature former Roma defender Federica Di Criscio, who played in the capital for Roma's first two seasons.
Speaking of defenders, the biggest storyline heading into this match for Roma is the recent acquisition of Elena Linari, a 26-year-old defender formerly of Fiorentina, Brescia, Atletico Madrid, and Bordeaux. Linari is unquestionably one of Italy's best defenders but thanks to her falling out with Bordeaux, she hasn't played a club match since October 6th, so she was no sure thing to make today's squad list.
But, when you land a talent like Linari, why wait? And as it turns out, Betty Bavagnoli has included Linari in the matchday squad along with fellow center-backs Allyson Swaby, Tecla Pettenuzzo, and Heden Corrado. Linari isn't likely to start, but it wouldn't be out of the question to see her Roma debut come in the second half.
While the Linari decision likely won't come until the second half, Bavagnoli’s hand was forced in two other areas. With starting keeper Camelia Ceasar suspended for this match, Rachele Baldi will get the start while Agnese Bonfantini will miss the match completely due to injury.
Even without Ceasar or Bonfantini, Roma has more than enough talent to take Napoli down with ease. Look for Manuel Giugliano, Andressa, Annamaria Serturini, and Paloma Lázaro to flex their muscle early and put this match to bed in the first half, where Napoli has conceded seven goals in 10 matches already.