For the past three seasons, the women of Roma have made their home at the Stadio Tre Fontane on the southeast banks of the Tiber River. While it's not nearly as expansive as the Stadio Olimpico on the opposite side of town, the Giallorosse have turned their home into a fortress, winning seven of their past 10 fixtures in all competitions. However, thanks to that pesky little G-20 Summit last weekend, Roma were forced to pack their bags and head to Trigoria.
Despite the unfamiliar surroundings, Alessandro Spugna's side put on a clinic last weekend, breezing past Hellas Verona in a lopsided 5-1 victory. It's been an up and down debut season for Roma's new manager, but the high-scoring end-to-end football we thought we'd see all along finally emerged last weekend. Thanks to goals from Manuela Giugliano, Annamaria Serturini, Andressa Alves, and a brace from Paloma Lázaro, Roma put in perhaps their most dominating performance of the season en route to their second-straight win.
Roma vs. Fiorentina: November 13th. 14:30 CET/8:30 EST. Stadio Tre Fontane, Roma.
Thanks to that victory, Roma jumped back ahead of Inter Milan into fourth place and enter this round nine fixture three points behind third-place AC Milan and five points behind second-place Sassuolo. With Milan (away to seventh-place Pomigliano) and Sassuolo (away to tenth-place Napoli) each gifted relatively easy fixtures, Roma has to watch every step they take as they play host to eighth place Fiorentina on Saturday.
The Viola may have slipped down the Serie A pecking order this season, but when these two clubs meet, the margins are always razor-thin. Over the past three seasons (six league matches), Roma and Fiorentina have played to a dead heat: two wins each, four draws, and only a two-goal margin of difference. And those already minuscule margins disappear completely when these sides meet in Rome, where every single league meeting between the two clubs has ended in a draw.
We talk a lot about the lack of breathing room between the big clubs in this competition, and the shared history between Roma and Fiorentina is a testament to one incontrovertible fact: If you want to achieve anything in Serie A Femminile, you must defeat your direct rivals.
With that in mind, let's examine how Roma can find an edge against Fiorentina on Saturday.
Keep An Eye On
Daniela Sabatino's Scoring Streak
We tend to pick out the opposition's leading scorer in this section almost by default, but there's still no need to get cute here: If Roma has any chance of notching their first W against Fiorentina at home, it begins and ends with Sabatino.
Quite simply, Sabatino is one of the best scorers Italy has to offer—one who seems to take special joy in vanquishing the Giallorosse. In six career games against Roma, while playing for Milan, Sassuolo, and Fiorentina, Sabatino has scored three times. Making matters worse, Sabatino is currently riding a heater, scoring five goals and contributing two assists in her last five games. She's also had a hand in all three of the Viola's most recent goals (2G, 1A).
In many ways, Sabatino is the exact type of striker Roma has needed for years—crafty, effective, and seemingly always in the thick of the action—but tomorrow they can't dwell on what might have been, they have to put clamp down on Sabatino.
Fortunately, Roma happens to feature arguably the best defensive pairing in the league: Elena Linari and Allyson Swaby. Linari and Swaby have the requisite size, speed, and intellect to suppress the Sabatino threat tomorrow, but you can't rest when she's on the pitch—she's just...pesky.
Andressa's All-Around Excellence
After a surprising fourth-place finish in 2018 (their first year in existence), Roma continued to astound fans and pundits alike with an incredibly impressive transfer window in the summer of 2019. First came the capture of former Milan midfielder Manuela Giugliano, who was instrumental in Italy's run to the quarterfinals of the 2019 World Cup and likely had her choice of clubs. And then, a mere 72 hours later, the club signed Andrine Hegerberg, helping the former PSG midfielder fulfill a childhood dream of playing for Roma.
Thanks to these attention-grabbing moves, the addition of Andressa Alves nearly got swept under the rug. A pivotal piece for Barcelona the prior two seasons (18 goals in 45 appearances) and a FIFPRO XI finalist in the summer of 2019, Andressa's signing should have been a HUGE deal, but the understated Brazilian playmaker hasn't let the lack of acclaim tame her performances for Roma.
With four goals and three assists in approximately 1,100 minutes last year, Andressa had a solid season for the Giallorosse, but the 29-year-old Sao Paolo native has blown the doors off the frame this season. Through her first eight appearances (615 minutes), Andressa has scored two goals (tied for second on the club) and provided a club-leading four assists, good enough for second in Serie A Femminile.
Sitting in the middle of Spugna's 4-2-3-1, Andressa's dynamism is on full display. With her countrywoman Thaisa Moreno providing defensive cover behind her (not to mention Giugliano), Andressa becomes an instant triple threat. Commanding the defense's attention the minute she ventures into the attacking third, Andressa can look for her own shot, she can pull the defense out of the area and slip pocket passes into the box for Valeria Pirone or she can widen the margins of the entire attack, playing Serturini and Glionna into the spaces they enjoy most—out wide.
And she does it all with a sense of calm and poise that only the most intelligent players can manage. If the worst comes to pass tomorrow, and Fiorentina grabs an early lead through Sabatino, if and when Roma hits back, you can bet your bottom dollar that Andressa was involved somehow, somewhere—she's that instrumental to Roma's tactical approach.
Following Saturday's fixture against Fiorentina, Roma runs it back next weekend with a road trip to Tavagnacco before the league goes on break through the first week of December. A clean two-for-two sweep would keep the Giallorosse in the middle of the Champions League hunt, so let's hope Andressa and the women of Rome can keep this streak alive!