Back on Matchday 4, when Roma was originally slated to play Inter Milan on the road, the Giallorosse were the toast of the league. With new manager Alessandro Spugna roaming the touchline and perhaps the deepest roster the club has ever known, Roma ran out to a perfect 3-0 start, clobbering opponents by a combined 9-2 scoreline. With the defense stifling opponents and the attack firing on all cylinders, Roma seemed poised to mount an early-season assault on the top of the table. Unfortunately, due to a spate of COVID-19 cases in the Inter Milan camp, the match was suspended, halting Roma's momentum in the process.
Inter Milan vs. Roma: October 16th. 14:30 CET/8:30 EDT. Stadio Breda, Milan.
The Giallorosse haven't exactly fallen off a cliff since then, falling to Juve via an 87th-minute match-winner before playing AC Milan to another hard-fought draw, but it's hard to view Saturday's match against Inter as anything other than a must-win.
Spugna addressed the what-ifs about this rescheduled match in an interview with Roma TV earlier today:
"It's going to be a difficult game against a good side ... we will need to take our chances."— AS Roma Women (@ASRomaWomen) October 15, 2021
Boss Alessandro Spugna looks ahead to tomorrow's meeting with Inter Milan. ️#ASRomaWomen #ASRoma pic.twitter.com/HJzpblexLB
Pretty standard stuff there from Spugna, who shook off any suggestion that the shifting schedule has put Roma at a disadvantage, saying simply that they must accept things as they come. Spugna was quick to praise Inter's fine form at the moment (three straight wins) while focusing on the incremental gains his side made against Juve and Milan, despite the lack of a victory.
But with the top of the table already coalescing around Juventus (18 points) and Sassuolo (18 points), Roma (10 points) needs a victory against Inter to keep pace with third-place AC Milan (13 points). While charting progress is great, given everything Roma has invested in the club over the past two offseasons, moral victories won't cut it anymore, nor will well-meaning draws. The margins at the top of the table are so thin as to not exist and Roma can ill afford to fall any further behind if they stand a chance at a genuine breakthrough in 2021-2022.
With that in mind, let's take a quick look at a few of the major plot points in Saturday's fixture.
Keep An Eye On
After scoring nine goals for Inter last season, up from six in 2019-2020, the 23-year-old forward seems primed for a breakout season. Through five matches, Marinelli has already tallied three goals, finding the back of the net in Inter's first three matches this season against Napoli, Lazio, and Empoli. What's more, she scored twice against Roma last season and should be a thorn in the collective side of Allyson Swaby and Elena Linari as they look to keep the pressure of Camelia Ceasar in goal.
Take everything we just said about Marinelli and amplify it by any power of ten you choose. Signed over the summer after a disastrous spell with Atletico Madrid, Bonetti could prove to be the sneakiest (if not the best) signing of the season. Before her sojourn in Spain, Bonetti made it her personal mission to punish Serie A defenses, scoring goals like she had a personal vendetta against nylon netting.
With 144 goals in 10 seasons, Bonetti was among the most dangerous goal scorers in Serie A Femminile and victimized Roma three times during her days with Fiorentina, and while she's gotten off to a relatively slow start (only one goal in three appearances), if Inter manager Rita Guarino starts her behind Marinelli on Saturday, Inter could inflict a lot of pain on Roma's defense.
Can Someone Help Serturini?
While she was just named September Player of the Month by the Player's Association, Annamaria Serturini has shouldered Roma's scoring load for far too long. Throughout their three-year history, Roma's struggles have been inextricably linked to poor finishing. Despite all the attacking talent the club has assembled during that time, it hasn't always amounted to efficiency in the final third.
With 26 Serie A goals in 65 appearances, Serturini isn't the problem. But whether it was Martina Piemonte and Luisa Pugnali during the club's inaugural season or any of the strikers or wide forwards they've employed since then, Serturini has seldom received the help she needs, or deserves, quite frankly—at least not with any measure of consistency.
But take one look at Roma's recent results—and really any of their fixtures against the top half of the table over the past two years—and you'll notice a theme: they seldom score more than one goal. And even if they do, they still tend to wind up with the short end of the stick.
In some respects, that's just the nature of the sport, but when the power structure in the league is so clearly defined (Juve on the throne, Milan seated to their right) and the same patterns and frustrations continually occur, it's hard to ignore.
Roma cannot survive, let alone topple that power structure if they can't get past this mental block that restricts their upward movement. Inter has some nice pieces in place, but, at least on paper, Roma should win this match. But more to the point, they need to win this match and blow the doors off while doing so.
And for that to happen, the Giallorosse need more than good intentions from Benedetta Glionna and Valeria Pirone, both of whom finished in the top five in last season's goal-scoring race. They've flashed the same skills and personalities that helped them menace the league last season—and have come excruciatingly close to scoring more than one goal apiece—but yeah, buts and almosts won't cut it tomorrow. Roma cannot win anything without Pirone and Glionna matching (or exceeding) Serturini's attacking output.