It's been hard to hide our disappointment at Roma's 2020-2021 campaign. Thanks to a bevy of talent at nearly every position, a top coach, and the support of the broader Roma organization, the Giallorosse began the season with sky-high expectations. Through their first two years in existence, Roma were putting together one of the league's most potent attacks while making steady progress in the standings. They may not have been ready to unseat Juventus at the top of the table just yet, but they were dangerous enough and had enough promise to make the debate plausible.
Here we are 10 weeks into the season and not only Roma not nipping at Juve's heels, thanks to a run of bad results (only one win in their last five) the Giallorosse have cratered all the way down to seventh place, 17 points behind league-leading Juventus and 14 points behind AC Milan, who would receive Italy's second and final Champions League place if the season were to end today—something we thought Roma would be fighting for at the start of the year.
There is, however, a silver lining to all this doom and gloom. In addition to cutting the campaign short by six matches, the decision not to resume the Serie A Femminile season last summer created an additional casualty: the on-going 2019-2020 Coppa Italia tournament was scrapped, robbing the four remaining teams (Roma, Juventus, AC Milan, and Fiorentina) a shot at the title.
To make amends for that decision, league and federation officials decided to reformat the Supercoppa Italia, which usually pits the cup champion vs. the league champion, as a special winner takes all four-team tournament between the four remaining clubs from last year's canceled Coppa Italia, with Roma taking on Juventus and Milan squaring off against Fiorentina.
Club captain Elisa Bartoli described the club's excitement at this ad-hoc tourney:
The new format for the Supercoppa motivates everyone...The fact that the top four could qualify for it also makes the league more exciting and engaging – as everyone fights until the end to get into position to fight for a trophy
I am pleased with the format - and it could become a way for us to refocus from the league season, which is not going that well
Bartoli, who was candid about Roma's disappointing season thus far, continued to speak about the Supercoppa as a shot at redemption for the club:
We are hoping for a revival in the New Year and above all we hope to get back to winning on a regular basis,
We are playing pretty well but we need to take stock, we know winning helps breed more winning and that’s what we’ve been lacking a bit recently. We need to be determined and spirited and have that hunger to win this trophy.
It’s time to show what Roma can be, because if you look at the statistics and the way we play then we are right there – but we lack the final elements that make all the difference.
Often we lack that spirit, that hunger you need to see out or kill off matches – we aren’t clinical enough, so we need to be focused for 90 minutes and be more determined in front of goal.
Bartoli's assessment is refreshingly frank and 100% accurate: Roma's build-up and chance-creation have actually been pretty impressive, but it all goes astray in the final third. Of course, it's one thing to try and find themselves against a lower club like San Marino, but it's quite another to do it against defending league champs Juventus, a side that waxed Roma 4-1 in mid-December.
A point that was not lost on coach Betty Bavagnoli:
We are picking up basically from where left off – we finished last year with a defeat against Juventus and now we start again with another game against them, an important game for so many reasons
We’ve made a note of our errors, we’ve tried to work on them and improve everything that didn’t really work for us. We know that football can through up surprises in one-off games, so we’ll see what happens.
We learned a lot from the last game against Juventus. It was a battle against a really good side, the best, and we’ll surely learn something from tomorrow’s game as well.
Clearly we have less experience in competitions like this, but we have to start somewhere. So we will go into the game with the utmost respect for our opposition, without any fear.
We’ve prepared for this game and I will ask my players to put their all into it – not just their legs and feet, but with their hearts and minds too
Lamenting errors, poor finishing, and speaking about the always nebulous concept of mentality has been a pretty common refrain from Bavagnoli this season, so I'm afraid there’s not much we can glean from these comments, but she is correct about one thing: anything can happen in these one-off matches.
The problem, quite simply, is that Juventus have absolutely owned Roma over the past two years. Since the beginning of the 2018-2019 season, Juve and Roma have faced off four times, with Juventus winning all four matches by a combined 13-1 scoreline.
So, while it may be true that anything can happen in a knockout match, history hasn't been very kind to Roma in this matchup.
But if Bavagnoli and Bartoli truly want to jumpstart Roma's revival, knocking out Juve and advancing to the finals of the Supercoppa would be a hell of a start.