With 15 matches in the books and 30 points on the table, the first half(ish) of Roma's season has gone pretty well. Sure, we can still gripe about the points deduction from the Verona match or some of the calls and non-calls since then, but by and large, Roma has done more things right than wrong this season. But compared to tomorrow's opponents, last place Crotone, Roma are a virtual juggernaut.
We're just shy of the season's midway point, but given how tight things are in the standings, it's never too early to do a bit of table watching. While Juventus, who trail Roma by three points (with a match in hand), face the difficult task of playing Milan at the San Siro, Roma's other rival for fourth place (Napoli) have a relative gimme at home against 18th place Spezia.
Crotone vs. Roma: January 6th. 15:00 CET/9:00 EST. Stadio Scida, Crotone.
So, despite the chasm between Roma and Crotone, this is yet another must-win for Roma. Before we tackle the Roma side of the equation, let's take a quick look at Crotone's (miserable) form thus far.
Shark Week: Crotone Facts & Figures
There are struggling clubs, there are bad clubs and then there's Crotone, who are literally one of the worst squads in Europe at the moment. Through 15 matches, Crotone has fewer points than all but four clubs in Europe's top five leagues at the moment, as only West Bromwich Albion, Sheffield United, Mainz 05, and Schalke 04 have fared worse. Similarly, Crotone's -20 goal differential and 35 goals conceded are among the worst marks in Europe's major leagues—only West Brom and Schalke have conceded more goals than Crotone.
So, whether we're talking points on the table or the literal point of the sport (putting the ball in the back of the net more than your opponent), Crotone is pretty much the worst team in Europe at the moment.
With 15 goals scored and 35 conceded, a typical Crotone match yields 3.33 goals per contest, the sixth-highest mark in the league. However, unlike a few of the clubs ahead of them on that list (Milan, Roma, Inter, Atalanta), Crotone are often on the short end of the stick, failing to score in 40% of their matches thus far.
Obviously, you never want to take any opponent for granted, but football clubs don't get much worse than the Sharks of Calabria at the moment. However, despite that horrific start to the season, Crotone are actually enjoying their best stretch of the year, taking positive points in three of their past five matches, including two victories—over Spezia and Parma last month.
Thanks to that mini-resurgence, Crotone are only two points away from climbing out of the relegation zone and the pivotal piece in that “turn around” has been Brazilian forward Junior Messias. The 29-year-old striker has scored four of his five Serie A goals over the past month, including two braces: in Crotone's 4-1 win over Spezia and their 2-1 victory over Parma. With five goals in 15 matches, Messias is well ahead of last season's pace when he scored six goals in 34 Serie B fixtures with Crotone.
Not everyone is as enamored with football statistics as we are, but there's no debating these figures: With 15 goals in 15 matches, Crotone have averaged one goal per game (and four of those 15 came in one match) and have failed to score in 40% of their matches, so Roma's math is pretty simple—score two goals and the match is likely theirs for the taking.
Even if Paulo Fonseca gives minutes to backups, Roma are more than capable of outscoring one of the most porous defenses in Europe.